Four days after joining the most recent "Walk Across America" in Baltimore, Justica Timelee found herself thinking about more than nuclear bombing and Native American rights yesterday.
"I'm dying to hear some Bach," the 21-year-old confided during a lunch break in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station and tavern along U.S. 1 in Laurel. "Classical music is really where it's at."
The Peabody Conservatory graduate is among 95 Americans and Belgians who are blazing a 3,000-mile trail from New York City to the Western Shoshone Nation in Nevada.
Yesterday, "the community," as they call themselves, walked 13 miles from Elkridge to Laurel.
Along the way, these walkers, dressed in faded jeans, T-shirts and ponchos, are voicing concern for Mother Earth and protesting the treatment of American Indians and nuclear testing by both the American and British governments in the Western Shoshone Nation, which they described as the "most heavily bombed nation on Earth."
"It's a very good effort," Ms. Timelee said. "I feel as a group we are very strong. Certainly, one person may not make a difference but as a group, I think we can."
They want the U.S. government to honor its treaties with Indian nations. And they want the government to stop nuclear testing on Indian lands. Several American Indians were among the walkers.
Although Ms. Timelee joined the walk Thursday, the group began its journey Jan. 31 at the United Nations. The trip will end at the Shoshone Indian reservation in Nevada on Oct. 12, 1992, the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America.
Walk organizers are hoping to draw 20,000 people at the trip's end.
"The causes here are very real," said Ms. Timelee, a Baltimore dance teacher. "Basically, Columbus did not discover America. He invaded it."
It's a lesson she and the others will teach as they wind their way to Washington and then across states like Ohio, Illinois and Kansas. Their daily 15-mile walks include passing out fliers, canvassing neighborhoods and speaking to audiences in classrooms and lecture halls.
Among the walkers are 45 Belgians -- and 175 more have registered to join the trip. They have prompted the most oft-asked question: Why are the Belgians involved?
It's a question that Pol D'Huyvetter, a 30-year-old from Gent, Belgium and one of the trip's organizers, is not hesitant to answer.
The U.S. government, he said, has been pushing European nations to do "things against the will of our people," such as deploying nuclear and other weapons on the continent.
Mr. D'Huyvetter, wearing a T-shirt that read "Remember We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee," said Europeans are not ignorant of how American Indians have been treated. "We have learned about the treatment of Native Americans -- like the treatment of indigenous people everywhere," he said. "And we decided to do something, especially in 1992 -- the celebration of 500 years of genocide. I would call it genocide."
Trailing the walkers, who range in age from 16 to 72, is a nine-vehicle caravan, including buses containing portable bathrooms, a kitchen, and vans for maintenance and to carry weary walkers.