Betty Burkes (born 1943) is a lifelong educator and activist, working for a world where all human beings are celebrated for their brilliance and beauty, where people recognize their interconnectedness, where the earth is respected, and justice prevails. She has taught these principles in her Montessori preschool, brought them to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (as President, US section, and longtime board member), and used them in peace education in Albania, Cambodia, Niger, and Peru with the Hague Appeal for Peace/UN Department of Disarmament Affairs.
Betty Burkes was born in Malvern, Ohio, in 1943. She is African-American, descended from enslaved people, and raised by working-class parents and loving grandmothers. After graduating from Ohio State University she taught in Ethiopia as a peace corps volunteer. Later, she founded a Montessori preschool on Cape Cod, serving as its director for 12 years, and offering young children an enriching learning environment where peacemaking and social justice mingled with the affirmation of childhood. She has been involved with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) as a branch member, as president (US section), and as a national board member (l989 to 2002), and is a member of the Cambridge Peace Commission. She served as pedagogical coordinator for the Hague Appeal for Peace in partnership with the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs in Albania, Cambodia, Niger, and Peru (2002 to 2005). The original mission of local organizations involved in this project was to disarm their communities. This emphasis shifted to the creation of programs that strengthen communities so that people can deal with problems differently, especially teaching young people alternative ways to handle conflicts so they no longer need knives and guns to protect themselves. Betty worked with local people to uncover their peacemaking traditions and to create programs and curricula, organizing to bring these traditions to the surface and to honor them. Betty is a gifted writer, an inspiring speaker, and a loving collaborator. She has been honored with awards for antiracism and peacemaking, including the Fanny Lou Hamer Award and the NAACP Community Service Award, and was featured on the cover of Hope magazine (June 2004).
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Hague Appeal for Peace Cambridge Peace Commission