When people ask me how the Fresno Center for Nonviolence has kept its doors open so long—now going on 18 years—I often give a one-word answer: “Angela.” Which is shorthand for saying that my esteemed colleague, Development Director Angela Price, has for all these years taken on the responsibility for organizing the activities that bring in the cash that pays the bills that give us a place and lets us have programs. And now it is, at last, time for our readers to meet the person behind the British-accented solicitor of donations.
To start with, the accent is honestly come by. Angela grew up in Shrewsbury in the part of England associated with A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad and TV’s Brother Cadfael. From her parents she absorbed a love of nature and the planet, the wonder inhaled with the air on the family hikes and picnics in the hill country. Her father, a noted singer among his associates, bequeathed a love of art and music. Her mother brought to the household an open-minded acceptance of the variety of religious and ethnic cultures that showed up in postwar Britain—often overriding the native insularity of her husband. (The effectiveness of her teaching is evident when you meet Angela’s spouse, Dr. Merlyn Price, a native of Trinidad.)
But growing up in England during WWII also created memories of air raids and blackouts, visions of casualties and destruction, fear of war and longing for peace. These, too, have given direction to Angela’s life, injecting an impulse to “to do something to make it better.” And—in foreshadowing that would be much too obvious if this were a novel—among the first activities she took up in assisting various causes was fund-raising. “I remember going to rallies and public gatherings with my little can, giving people flags for their donations. I never felt abashed at asking people to support causes I believed in.” Angela also remembers as a girl writing plays, rounding up friends to perform them, and charging admission to raise money for favored organizations.
An important turn in her life came when she obtained employment with the Council of Europe (a proto-European Parliament) for three years. She recalls “there were 15 member countries at the time, and to get 15 countries together to agree on anything was a nightmare. So much hard work went into orchestrating their meetings it amazed me that they ever agreed on anything. And yet, it was there that I saw how important it was for people to talk together, try and understand each other, disagree but actually accomplish something together. I remember thinking, perhaps naively, that maybe there can be peace in our lifetime.” These experiences greatly enhanced her international perspectives and fed her desire to work against war.
Anyone spending time with Angela quickly discovers her profound enjoyment of family life. So it is no surprise that as Angela and Merlyn married, made their way to the United States, raised two children, got through his medical training (a joint project) and established a medical practice, family was at the center of her life. Yet Angela managed some time for organizational involvements; in Berkeley, while Merlyn was doing his residency, these involvements took a decided turn toward anti-nuclear activism.
Her fervor in this regard is a corollary of her religious skepticism, and the belief that the Earth we live on is all we have, to be protected and nurtured at all costs. “Whatever we have to do as a species, this is the place to do it.”
Having relocated to Fresno, Angela’s political involvements intensified and were concentrated by her meeting with the local chapter of Beyond War. “I am deeply attracted to passionate people, and here they were.” She was especially impressed by the words of Amelia Rathbun, a visitor from the Bay Area chapter, who said, “You are responsible. Do something every day”—an injunction Angela says still incites her to daily action of some kind.
As a representative from Beyond War, Angela participated in meetings of Visions of Community, a pioneering effort to bring Fresno’s many organizations working for social change to one table. And Visions was the birthplace for the idea (born amid ineffective protests against the first Gulf War) that a center was needed to promulgate nonviolence continuously. As this new institution, the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, took form, Angela assumed the lead in fund-raising. “I could see no one else was doing it,” she says, “and I really don’t mind—actually I rather like it.” (She doesn’t say, but I think it safe to presume that she didn’t expect a 20-year term of office.)
With the closing a couple of years ago of the medical office where she assisted Dr. Price on a full-time basis, Angela has been freer to involve herself with the center’s programmatic elements. She has been instrumental in bringing several major speakers to Fresno—notably Robert Fisk, whose local appearances took almost two years to orchestrate. She has also taken the lead in locating and procuring films for the center’s video series, and she takes a regular turn hosting the center’s monthly Stir It Up edition on KFCF. Still, she says, she regrets not having more time to focus on the environmental and climactic threats to the planet that demand immediate attention. (And if there is a potential fund-raising apprentice out there, Angela would welcome your time-freeing assistance.)
Angela says the two biggest changes in her political philosophy over the years have been 1) a growing acceptance that spirituality can give strength to some people “even though I don’t understand it” and 2) that despite her abiding belief in the power of science and art, a growing concern that time is running out on us. “It’s not in my nature to be pessimistic, but some days I just don’t see how change can happen fast enough to save us.”
Still she is able to draw motivation to continue the work from the great nonviolent leaders of our time, like Cesar Chavez, and the countless acts of strength and courage she finds in the daily life around us and in her allies in Fresno’s progressive community. “I actually like what the first Bush said about a thousand points of light, but Howard Zinn—another of my heroes—said it best: ‘Small acts when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world.’”