2020/2021 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize Laureate By Marguerite Cleveland | Photo by In-Gear Media
In 1969, Marilyn Kimmerling met a scientist from Salmon Beach in Tacoma. She was enthralled by his tales of a community of artists and scientists who were doing things differently (and they were working on lasers, which fascinated her). Kimmerling was hooked after a visit to Salmon Beach. She fell in love with the area, moved here that same year, and has called Tacoma home ever since. With a life enthralled in civic engagement, Kimmerling was selected by the Board of Directors of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize as the 2020/2021 GTPP Laureate.
Marilyn received a specially designed medallion at the International Day of Peace event at Thea’s Park on September 21, 2021, and will be honored at the GTPP Laureate Recognition Banquet (which had to be postponed twice due to the pandemic), scheduled for February 17, 2022.
Q. What drew you to community activism? How long have you been an activist? A. I’ve been an activist for a long time. I remember when I was still back East, living in D.C., being in the Vietnam War march. I had friends in college who left, were drafted, and when they came back, they were horribly wounded. I remember when I made black friends in California, someone tried to run us down.
I was born Jewish, back when it meant something different. I remember being slammed against the wall and beaten, because “I killed Jesus.” I’m not a practicing Jew, but one of the things I learned was that you fight for justice. I just want to make the world a better place, the best I know how.
Q. What did it mean to you to be honored as the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize Laureate? A. I have a dear friend named Nancy Farrell, an absolutely remarkable selfless woman. She submitted my name every year—until I won. Nancy is a woman who cannot be told no. What it means to me? I don’t see myself a leader as much as a connector and a joiner. I want to encourage people to be direct, take action and create leaders. Winning this prize is a tribute to Nancy and her determination, as well as to all the people out there who aren’t big names or big money, but who do the work. People that love Tacoma. I consider the prize to be for all these different groups of people who are doing something good for Tacoma.
Q. Can you share with our readers why having a public access radio station like Radio Tacoma is so important for our community? A. Well, about six or seven years ago, I heard that the FCC was granting licenses for the radio dial. So much of the media has been conglomerates. At that time, it was almost impossible to have local radio.
We want to provide voice to what’s happening in Tacoma, and to give voice to the less heard. We love to give voice to the Tacoma refugee choir. It’s KTAH, 101.9 on FM. Or go to RadioTacoma.org. We’ve had local poets on there. All kinds of local storytellers. News. Information. Local musicians. I belong to a group called Veterans for Peace, and they did a section on how militarization effects climate change. Veterans for Peace talk peaceful solutions, how war is not the answer. I belong to Jewish Voice for Peace. They pursue justice. I also belong to the Industrial Workers of the world, addressing a labor issue. All these people are local voices that I think are important voices to be heard, and the radio helps do that.
Q. How did you become involved with the "Raging Grannies"? Is there a minimum age requirement? A. Oh yeah! I was still working as a counselor and therapist for children and families, and one of my co-workers suggested the Raging Grannies to me. She knew I liked to sing. Most of them were psychiatric nurses! Which was right in my area. When the leader of this chapter moved on, they passed on the baton to me. The Raging Grannies started in B.C. but are quite international. Not everyone is a grandmother, but the women in the Raging Grannies are “of a certain age” as they say. Most people consider grandmothers to be unthreatening. This allows us to say things that normally might not be well received. We dress comically, rewrite the lyrics to popular songs, and show up to various protests or rallies invited or not. And we show up and sing. Lots of people get cut off when they’re singing their truth, but nobody cuts off the Raging Grannies. It wouldn’t look good to cut off a bunch of older non-threatening older women.
Q. You have a long history of activism in our community. What are you most proud of that you feel "made a difference" or was a success? A. In 2017, I was one of six people that locked down the LNG storage tank. What we were trying to do was to bring attention to what was being planned and why it was dangerous. There were 16 cop cars and six of us. Of us six, Cynthia Linet and I went to trial to bring further attention to the cause. We were older and felt like we could do that. We won. That first action motivated a whole chain of events. It’s still going on. We’ve managed to slow it down. The LNG storage tank poses a danger of explosions, treaty violation and danger to marine life. I’m proud of being a part of that. I also fought against the methanol plant and the nuclear power plant. I’m very passionate about the earth. This assault against the planet always affects the people that live close to the hazard; people that usually aren’t given much of a voice.