Kristal Parks the Entertainer
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Re-Enchanting the World through Compassionate Action

Kristal Parks is an activist -- of a different order. She has shared life and struggles with Mayan Indians in Guatemala, Hmong refugees in Thailand and women in American prisons. She resisted nuclear weapons proliferation for 10 years, was arrested often and imprisoned in solitary confinement.

Now she also has the challenging adventure of being an advocate for her disabled brother.

But her deepest passion is as a voice for animals, especially elephants. She aspires to live a cruelty free lifestyle as a vegan.

Kristal Is Passionately Supporting Immigrants Held in ICE Detention & Helping to Unite Families

From The Washington Park Profile, a monthly newspaper:

As Activist Or Clown, She Carries a Message of Hope

by Susan Dugan

Long-time Denver activist Kristal Parks sits down and points to a photograph of a young Guatemalan girl. "My activism has always had a child component to it," she explains. Take for example this child, Alejandra. Besides actions that included 10 years resisting nuclear weapons production at Rocky Flats, Parks spent time in Guatemala in the 1980s providing 24-hour protection for the girl and her activist mother to help stem the tide of "disappearing" Guatemalan citizens.

"They had a civil war for a very long time, and people were just disappearing off the street," she says. "So the local people founded an organization to try to deal with the problem, but it's against the law to organize like that. So the leaders of the organization (people like Alejandra's mother) were in really great danger of losing their lives."

Parks and other Peace Brigade International volunteers intervened by creating a visible international presence. "My job was to walk on the side of the sidewalk next to the street because when you disappear, somebody just comes around a corner and grabs you." To protect her charges she'd sit on the outside at restaurant tables and behind them in movie theatres. Each day she'd accompany Alejandra to school and wait for her at the front gate.

Did she fear for her life? "Yes," she says. "But my feeling was if anybody tried to harm her, they were going to have to kill me. Because it wasn't right. And it was an incredible opportunity to use my class, my education, my nationality, my American looks to save another person's life."

The daughter of an American diplomat, Parks, who moved to Mexico at seven and to Spain at 12, considers herself culturally bilingual. "When I went back to Guatemala, it was like going home because the cultures are so similar," she says. She also credits her early experience in Mexico with igniting her revolutionary spirit."I became very aware of poverty and prejudice and injustice at a young age, she says. "My family lived in a nice big house, and we had servants, and there was a vacant lot next to me with people living in cardboard houses, and I began to ask questions. I have always felt responsible to act on what I know."

By the time she graduated from California State LA with a degree in pre-med, that sense of responsibility began to take a strong spiritual and social turn. Her husband at the time had begun to get involved with the anti-nuclear movement in California. She had met Phil and Dan Berrigan, radical Jesuit priests at the forefront of the 1960s peace movement, and was also studying with Black Nationalist Ron Karenga, co-founder of Kwanzaa. "I remember him saying what Martin Luther King taught us is that love and non-violence do not work," she says. "So I had him offering that on one hand, and people like Dan Berrigan on the other, and I was really asking myself where does my truth lie? I felt that nuclear weapons were really threatening the future of our children, and all life on earth. So I decided to throw myself in with the non-violent camp."

She soon put her truth to the test by participating in a series of non-violent "witnesses" at the Lockheed Missile and Space Corporation. "Instead of recognizing your opposition as the enemy, it meant trying to transform the violence within us by witnessing to another way of dealing with problems besides bombing them," she says.

Her actions carried grave consequences, and she soon found herself facing a possible eight-year jail sentence for trespassing and other more serious charges. Still, she and her co-defendants refused legal counsel because they chose to defend themselves on moral rather than legal grounds. " I had a lawyer friend who volunteered to defend me and said I could get eight years," she recalls. "I went to meet with her in jail, and there was a newspaper sitting out there with a picture of two swans swimming on the front page. I asked myself if those swans were worth eight yeas of my life, and I decided they were."

She defended herself and ended up with only a 60 day sentence. "I wanted to speak profoundly and not have a lawyer get me off on a technicality," she says. "That was freedom. They told me the judge had tears in his eyes."

By the time Parks came to Rocky Flats as part of the non-violent resistance movement in December 1981, she had further honed her moral and spiritual beliefs. "We went in on Christmas day in a witness of prayer," she says. "For me it is important where you pray. Praying at facilities of war gives your prayer a different kind of power and climbing over the fence in order to pray is saying I don't accept this boundary to my conscience."

The law, of course, has a different viewpoint. Parks found herself again jailed and eventually ended up spending 4½ months in solitary confinement. "I refused to cooperate because if I'm resisting that which is the cause of suffering outside the jail, I'm going to continue to resist it inside," she says. "I felt they could break me physically and emotionally, but my soul was the one thing they could not touch. So I followed my conscience and accepted the consequences. I have claustrophobia, so it was really psychological torture to be in a five-by-eight cell."

How did she survive it? She credits her spiritual training that draws on "the wisdom traditions, East and West. I'm most drawn to the contemplative Christian tradition and Zen Buddhism."

She spent time meditating at St. Benedict's monastery in Snowmass before and after every action. And she studied extensively with exiled Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. "I used to say for however much time you spend in jail, you should spend an equal amount of time in a monastery, purifying your motives, taking down barriers that separate you from others."

These days she's still helping tear down barriers. Motivated by difficulties she's experienced helping her recently disabled brother receive entitled benefits, she's become a champion for the disabled. And she's transformed herself again, this time into a children's entertainer, playing characters, including a fairy, an angel, a magician, and a clown. "And I thought if I could be clear, centered and motivated by love, I could be a benefit to children."

She performs at street fairs, in venues such as the Children's Museum, and at private birthday parties. "I wanted to invite all of us to care for the earth, so I developed my one-woman show called The Enchanting Wonders of Nature. It uses humor, comedy and fantasy to educate. A caterpillar turns into a butterfly. It's a metaphor for all our lives. No matter how much we're crawling on the ground there is the hope of wings."

Re-Enchanting the World:

Gandhi said: “There is no beauty in a garment that causes suffering”. The fur industry tortures and kills 4 million animals a year for vanity and greed. Kristal reminds people of this atrocity once a week at a fur store where she hands out leaflets and holds a protest sign.


“Re-Enchanting the World” is dedicated to preserving elephants and to protect them from the abuse and cruelty of circuses, other forms of entertainment and poaching.

The Childrens Entertainer ~ The Activist ~ The Elephant Conservationist ~ The Speaker ~ The Author ~ Home

Kristal Parks
email: [email protected]

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