Jodie Evans is a real life superhero! Where does the co-founder of CODEPINK find her courage and voice to fight for peace and justice? Jodie shares stories about three of her mentors and what she has learned from each of them. She speaks about finding her voice, sharing "the message" and describes how her work has enriched her life and has unleashed a profound joy.
Fearless and compassionate, Jodie is the co-founder of CODEPINK, a women’s activist organization that stands for peace and justice, environmental causes, and human and women’s rights. Coming from a modest beginning in Los Vegas, Nevada, her early work as a maid raised her awareness of women’s struggles and in 1999 she made her first film about her experiences (Stripped and Teased). She has been involved in numerous films and currently serves on the board of the Women’s Media Center, an organization that describes its goals as working to amplify the voices of woman in the media through advocacy, media and leadership training, and creation of original content.
Ms. Evans served in California Governor Jerry Brown’s cabinet and later managed his 1992 campaign for the presidency. Since the creation of CODEPINK in 2003, Jodie and sister advocates have been visibly active in protest actions such as disrupting Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention in 2008. Upon returning from a trip to Afghanistan, she delivered signatures from women in that country and the U.S. to President Obama asking him to send no new troops into the conflict there. With CODEPINK she has pursued and disrupted events involving Karl Rove, and the Koch brothers as well as other right-wing politicians. She was married to Max Palevsky until his death in 2010.
Huey Johnson: Jodie Evans, wonderful to see you, an old friend from the wars of the past. I have wonderful memories of our time in Sacramento together when you were the governor’s chief…-
Jodie Evans: Director of Administration.
Huey Johnson: And fundraiser as I recall. Can you tell me how you ended up being an activist and forming your current organization?
Jodie Evans: Well an activist, I became an activist because I was a maid in Las Vegas in one of the major hotels. And in 1970, we marched for – I got organized to march for a living wage and Jane Fonda came and marched with us and we won. And still maids get a living wage in Las Vegas til today. To be 16 years old and to be with women who, like their lives depended, you know, and raising their kids on getting enough money and on deserving a living wage. To like be in that, and find that in you, that I, you know I create this, I deserve this, I can stand for this and together win. I don’t know how to describe, like, what that does, it’s like you can’t lose that again. And I couldn’t not be an activist after that, because it was like a tool that not that many people had, and I wanted to keep developing it.
And so, I mean Huey, you were one of the people that taught me. I remember so many times listening to you and about your fierceness and you weren’t going to give up and that you were never attached to power. And watching you even the way you were with Jerry. You always fought for your ideals and your principles and you didn’t give a shit that Jerry was governor. You got to argue from the place of your own being. You inspired me to fight. I had some amazing experiences of seeing that, and then wanting it for myself, and that. I think those desires of wanting it for myself, not wanting to be you but wanting to have that were, you know, what constantly set me on the road of the power; it isn’t out there, the power is in here.
My most radical experience was when I was in the governor’s office and you know Jerry loves Cesar Chavez, but he couldn’t get the bill to pass, he couldn’t get that resolution through. And I watched him kind of surrender, and that it was the day that I realized that even though he had power, he didn’t have power. The power was outside. The power was the farmers, the power – and so when Cesar went down to Mosilino [Sp?] and started walking up, I went down to [unintelligible] and walked up and sat outside the governor’s office even though – remember, I had my office on the window, you know on the courtyard. And I was like, I felt more powerful outside the governor’s office than inside of it. And I vowed, you know, never to enter what is called power again.
An amazing, you know like 4 o’clock in the morning one time with Gregory Bateson, it’s going to probably make me cry, but I think maybe David Suzuki had come to visit or – and there I was, a young person, listening to the disasters that were going to befall the planet and…-
Huey Johnson: Those were good [unintelligible].
Jodie Evans: And I at some point said “How do I, like, live after this night?” You know, like what, where’s the optimism? And Gregory Bateson didn’t become sentimental or anything – matter of fact he looked at me and I could see in his eyes that he knew that we were going to doom. But his optimism, his – he said that the only thing you can do in the face of that is fight.
I traveled with David Brower a long time during the ‘92 presidential campaigns, he came out on the road with us, certainly having that veracity that he had and the joy were all great, it was a great teacher for me because Code Pink is all about joy. We dance. We sing. So that in the face of all the horrors too that we find the elixir of life at the same time and feed each other with it and that it is really about being alive and I think he taught me that. You know, it was about coming together for waffles and making them and feeding each other, feeding each other. And also then being in spirit with each other, you know, the martinis and it’s like all of that is important to the capacity to go up against what, you know, what I could look in, in the eyes of Bateson and see.
So he gave me the courage to look and see, and you know — and Brower gave me the life to stand with it. I learned from you and others that the fringe is where the truth was and I’m not uncomfortable there. I know at Code Pink, what I try to do is get more women and men comfortable in the place of what feels like alienation but instead is integrity. You have to find your individual voice and none of this happens alone. And that when, the more you find your voice and the integrity of the thing that moves your heart, the more you find people like that. So at first it feels alone. It’s that first moment of feeling alone because it does take you out of, kind of, the mass because you have to distance yourself to find yourself.
Huey Johnson: Comfort and companionship.
Jodie Evans: And then you find this amazing community of people too who have stepped out of and who have been willing to kind of stand alone long enough to then find the community and the richness of the community that I, that is the community I’ve found and that it exists in all kinds of issues and that it isn’t about the issue, it’s about the commitment to something bigger and something more beautiful and something more human.
You know, at some point I realize uh oh, now I’m an elder and that it matters what I do and that it – and that responsibility is really awesome because it helps me stay. You know when I’m up against a fear, that sense of responsibility helps give me the courage because I know it doesn’t, it takes all of us. And the more people that can be inspired and find their voice and you know disconnect from what I call the “world that calls itself the world”, the more we have the capacity to build a new world.