Hearts Center Radio Interviews

Octogenarian, Lane Berk, Reveals How a Life of Action Can Change the World

Octogenarian, Lane Berk, Reveals How a Life of Action Can Change the World

At 87 Lane Berk is a living legend known for her action to help change the world whether in sub-Saharan Africa or in her home town of Baltimore MD. Lane counts among her life mentors and friends renowned scientists, philosophers, psychologists and artists including Einstein, Alan Turing, Steiner, M.L. King, Chavez, Havel, Rev. Tutu, and Nelson Mandela.


Some of her stories are spellbinding. Many are simply charming, a few are phenomenal. Her action reveals a life dedicated to valuing people -- especially women and the poor --and to serving universal justice. She admits to having strong feelings of world pain and to gratitude as her antidote. Lane was a spy for the Allies during the War; later she was employed as an investigative correspondent for UNESCO’s German de-Nazi-fication program, and in the 60s she helped ballet artists escape Russia. She is one of 24 people who helped found the Peace Corps and in her mid 70's served in the Peace Corps in The Republic of South Africa. There she served in impoverished villages where she lived for 10 years. To her, “Africa is not a country, it is her addiction.”


As an writer, scholar and advocate for the oppressed, Lane became an advisor to the US Commission on Civil Rights, an arbitrator for Maryland’s Commission on Interracial Problems and Relations, and later became Maryland’s Commissioner for Human Rights. And she was invited by Rev. Desmond Tutu to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her guiding principle is simple, “If you can’t put yourself in others’ shoes, you can’t begin to understand.” Lane graduated cum laude from high school with special honors in Philosophy and Psychology, and was awarded a Peabody Scholarship. She holds several University and College degrees in Art, Philosophy, Moral Sciences, and -- from Cambridge, UK, a D. Litt., Honorary Doctor of Letters, in International Law.


And naturally, she speaks 5 languages, plus a number of African dialects. Born Jewish, Lane went into a nunnery as a youth. Until, being “too contentious” she left as a novice. Today she claims to believe only what she can prove. Yet she believes in miracles, attends a 10 day Vipassana meditation every year, practices yoga daily, and is a founding and long standing member of the Baltimore Ethical Society, saying she will decide when to make her transition.


Lane’s real passion is the arts - all of them - music, dance, theater, painters, sculptors and even chefs. Some of her work with the UN in Germany was to save cultural properties as art from theft. Back in Baltimore with her late husband, Bernard, Lane founded and continues to be an ardent supporter of numerous art organizations and spaces for artist housing and teaching, including Center Stage, a theater created early on specifically to challenge segregation; and she helped found the original Baltimore symphony. These are still thriving today as part of Baltimore’s Cultural Center of Maryland. Piano lessons at the rich Cohen sisters’ grand home in Baltimore where the wealthy and European art buyers came to visit are what drew Lane into the original circle of fame and great talent. She says, “it’s one of the ways the whole world came into my life.”


Born in Baltimore, Lane has been a lifelong resident. Her current large old home has been completely restructured to accommodate her world of cultural art, to host regular galas open to the public, and to offer a venue for events that further humankind.

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