Changemaker Chat – B. Lee Coyne

B. Lee Coyne is a “catalyst”–journalist, counselor, educator.  He enjoys exposure to multiculturism and has had the fortune of visiting 30 countries. His hobbies run from travel to cooking, poetry to philately, and I enjoy listening to instrumental music for relaxation–that’s one man’s form of nirvana.

How did you first become interested in social change?

Social Change entered my mind even before I knew the term. I was raised by tolerant grandparents and a mom who encouraged inquiry. When my dad returned from wartime, he was just the opposite, rejecting questions and explanations on any subjects. I soon felt that this was unfair…and thus verbally rebelled. I was seeking the right to be heard.

How do you define social justice?

“Social Justice” extends beyond personal justice to imply an equal playing field. We want nobody to be disenfranchised from the rights and privileges others receive. In that context, we challenge status based on happenstance and having a “lucky break”.

What has been your most exciting experience as an activist?

Early on, I’d say it was developing Sunshine Line, which used the teleconferencing technique to reach out to the homebound elderly. This was launched in Jamaica, NY, back in 1982. Nearly as satisfying were Operation Green Thumb (converting a trash dump into an intergenerational garden) and publishing a special journal of immigrant memories called The Ellis Island Digest. As far as mobilizing an entire community, creating an outdoor mural would top the list; see salempeacemosaic.org.

What is the most interesting project in which you are currently involved?

Our Cherry City Institute is attempting to develop an Asiatowne Culture Center to accentuate Far East food, fashions and the arts. We also have been working with Greyhound Lines to upgrade its terminal, perhaps with a Native American motif.

What is your vision for a better world?

This visionary’s ultimate vision is to train the future generation to learn and practice alternatives to violence, not only war but starting with schoolyard bully behavior.

What are your plans for the future?

I will continue with my weekly radio show on aging-related topics, be an advocate for greater intergenerational cohesion, and seek out kindred souls to collaborate with in fruitful projects that reflect my affinity for humanity. Also in the wings could well be one or several social issue magazines articles and self-help books that help people get unstuck and move their lives in more positive directions.

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