Jude Thilman

Chapter One: 72

Chapter One: 72 focuses on the global median life expectancy, which has averaged 72 years over the past five years. Photographers worldwide documented the daily lives of 72-year-olds in their communities for this story.

This project is a natural extension of my lifestyle photography which documents every day, real life moments.  If there's someone in your life whom you would like to celebrate through a photo essay, I invite you to start a conversation with me.

A Life of Activism

Jude Thilman

“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. … we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.” —Nelson Mandela

“When Nelson Mandela said these words in his inauguration speech on May 10, 1994, we wept such tears of joy, along with those around the world who had worked so long to free Mandela from prison and to realize the sweetness of this day.  I was in the crowd of thousands, squished against each other, on the lawn in front of the Pretoria capital.  ” — Jude

Jude is an inspiring individual who cherishes her connection to the "60s generation," a time that ignited her dedication to peace, justice, and civil rights. Her commitment to social change has been unwavering, leading her on a remarkable journey of activism for numerous causes.

Her path began when she was dismissed from her high school newspaper for interviewing a nun protesting the use of napalm in Vietnam. This incident didn't deter her; the following year, she hitchhiked from her college in Indiana to join a massive anti-war demonstration in Washington D.C., where over 500,000 people protested against the Vietnam War.

Throughout her life, Jude continued to challenge conventions and take risks in support of progressive causes. Her endeavors ranged from smuggling cash and computers to aid liberation movements in Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia, to contributing to Nelson Mandela's campaign for the South African presidency. All these experiences became more meaningful because they were shared with equally committed friends.  And like them, Jude was a born rule-breaker and risk taker, if it was for a good cause. 

In between her global solidarity work, she had a son who turned two on the day that the black majority voted for Mandela to be their new president.  Along with her co-mom, Jude created an “alternative family” of lesbian and gay parents and friends to be the village that helped raise their boy.  Jude is very proud of the man he has become and of the choices made to support his upbringing.   

In the past decade, Jude has advocated for cannabis medicine and its pressing need for full legalization. She staunchly believes in healthcare as a fundamental human right and advocates for traditional herbal medicine as a means of ensuring this right for all.

With 15 years of experience in the cannabis industry and 35 years in public media education, Jude is actively engaged in promoting traditional cannabis medicine, culture, and the legacy community of Mendocino. She owns Dragonfly™ Wellness Center, a holistic healing hub on the Mendocino Coast.  She has served as an officer of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, a trade association that supports small farmers struggling to uphold the values and policies shaping the evolving world of medicinal cannabis.

Presently residing in scenic Mendocino County, she participates in a local group of older women, studying Buddhist teachings and practices. Jude is learning to embrace a slower pace of life, contemplating how compassion and equanimity can guide her journey. 

Her story is a testament to resilience, activism, and a lifelong dedication to making the world a better place.