by Greg Foisie
Post–secondary peace programs are few and far between in Southern California, despite the fact that academic disciplines such as Peace and Conflict Studies and Peace Education have been established around the world for decades. Some educators suggest that peace programs are even being supplanted by other approaches professing to have the capacity to establish harmony, including global studies, leadership, and conflict mediation, the latter being just one aspect of peace education. So I was surprised to learn that there was a peace certificate program at an Orange County community college – Golden West College in Huntington Beach – and a peace forum on-going there for nine years.
I decided to attend the college’s 9th Annual Peace and Leadership Conference titled “Leadership and Peace Building” held on Friday, April 24. I enjoyed the day’s activities that consisted of speakers describing their efforts to address injustice and make the world a more peaceful place.
I think the US “peace movement” can be characterized as being of two persuasions. The more mainstream group feels uncomfortable criticizing the status quo. They prefer to talk about peace in terms of concentrating on inner work and doing kind acts in their community, with the hope that this will result in the world becoming peaceful. The second group attributes lack of peace to systems that perpetuate oppression and wrong-doing, and believe the forces of the controlling powers in
our society and around the world must be dismantled so a new way of living can be established. I feel both perspectives have merit, and are important and necessary in the creation of real, “positive” peace.
While I found myself interested in almost all the presenters’ projects, I was most moved by those who advocated that imminent causes of problems be recognized and dealt with, seeking significant change.
One presenter to do so was the Black rock and roll pianist Daryl Davis, whose book KLAN-DESTINE Relationships was the first nonfiction book by a Black author detailing the history of the KKK through personal encounters and interviews with klan hierarchy. His testimony and video
documentation was moving, illustrating how reaching out can over time change lives in positive ways.
Another outstanding presentation in this regard included Lisa Schultz, recipient of the 2015 GWC Peace Award. She’s the founder of the international online artistic creative community, TheWhole9.com and The Peace Project. Working with the help of a network of 500 medical professionals, concerned citizens, and disabled communities, she helped distribute 10,000 pairs of crutches across the war zone areas of Africa on September 21, 2011, World Peace Day. Lisa spoke out passionately against war, and the US involvement in war. She advocated changing the way we think about and manifest change and working together to build a better community.
Tony Damico reviewed recent Long Beach community initiatives in his talk titled “Declare
Interdependence.” He described the abilities of local communities to create time banks, time
exchanges, community food swaps (eaters/feeders/seeders) and foodscapes that prioritize
reciprocity and community engagement over maximizing profit.
Dr. Hilarie Kelly’s presentation on “Women and Men as Partners in Peace: the Struggle for Sustainable Family and Community,” emphasized the importance of women as peace builders addressing the root causes of conflict. She presented the work of successful peace pioneers such as environmental and political activists Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia who created collaborative efforts that established peace in their nations, often through ensuring sustainable support structures for families.
Greg Foisie is a CSULA peace education graduate student and volunteer at Change-Links, Arlington West & other peace initiatives.