Audri Scott Williams walked thousands of miles to promote peace, now she’s on the move again, this time to bring attention to the environment.
Williams, 57, is a little more than two weeks into a six-week walk from Washington D.C. to Tuskegee, Ala., her home. She struck out with a group of supporters March 1 from the Martin Luther King. Jr. Memorial in Northwest Washington. She expects to conclude the walk on April 13. She is collaborating with the Heal the Atmosphere Association, a Tuskegee-based organization, to raise environmental awareness.
“We want to raise awareness of the damage being done to the planet through pollution. We also want to shift the consciousness about Mother Earth so that all realize that we are in relationship with her and all things,” Williams said.
From 2005-2009, Williams, a former Maryland resident, led seven others in a walk around the world in the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk. They traveled to 17 countries. The current walk, dubbed the Out of Washington Comes RESPECT (Real Environmentally Safe Practices—Embracing Change Together) Walk. Two members of The Trail of Dreams World Peace team, Karen Watson, 62, and Tony Shina, 51, are joining Williams. Other walkers include Charles and Harriet Davis, founders of The Heal the Atmosphere Association; students from Tuskegee University. The youngest walker is 6-year-old Elijah Sims.
A grandmother of 12 who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a master’s in indigenous science, Williams resigned as dean of continuing education and community services from Charles County Community College in 1993 to fulfill a greater calling—walk for peace, healing and reconciliation.
“In 1993, I had a heart attack,” she said. “The cardiologist said I was lucky. He said I was here to do something and I needed to figure what that was if I wanted to be here. I knew what he meant. After the heart attack, I made a commitment to follow the path of my dreams. My dreams led me to walk to affect peace and healing in our relationships because how we are in relationship to ourselves, our families, our communities and mother earth will determine the fate of humankind,” she added.
Williams noted that in 12 years, she estimates that she has walked more than 50,000 miles. Because of the young walkers accompanying the group, the walkers are covering eight to 10 miles a day, “but our goal is 40 miles a day,” she said.
Along the way, the group will stop to give talks on peace and the need to protect the environment.
“We are walking in solidarity and bringing attention to environmental issues that impact poor and indigenous people around the world,’ she said.
Her experiences have taken her on four life-changing journeys, including The Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk for Peace on six continents where she visited sacred sites, engaged in sacred ceremonies, and connected with communities, Williams said. She noted that leaders throughout history, including Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandi and Harriet Tubman, have used walking to inspire change. The walk route includes Richmond, Va., Greenville, N.C., Atlanta and Montgomery, Ala. Organizers invite community groups to provide food and sleeping accommodations.
“Walking is powerful and transformational,” she said. “I walk because the power of love is present and it sweeps away the lies that keep us blind and brings us face to face with our deepest truths—about ourselves and the world around us. I choose to engage and change the world, one step at a time. If one person's life is healed or transformed because they walked with us then my prayers are answered because they very well may be (the) leader the world is waiting for.”
For more than a decade, The Heal the Atmosphere Association has offered “green education,” officials said. In Tuskegee, it created Shanti Villa, a model green community that attracts young environmentalist and artists who are committed to healing the planet. The organization also has been leading small walks in the community for years to raise environmental awareness, authorities said.
“From my standpoint, our survival as a human species depends on us recognizing and honoring Mother Earth,” she said.
Williams said the Davises, who founded Shanti Villa with their three sons, inspired this latest journey. “We all were talking about environmental issues and decided to start our walk in D.C. because it symbolically represents the political powers of our country and we wanted to connect with that to make a statement,” she said.