Imagine a world where people listen and talk with each other to break down barriers that contribute to conflict and seemingly separate us. That is what peacebuilding is about.
The CA Peace Alliance/ Department of Peacebuilding campaign took our message of peacebuilding to the CA Democratic Party (CDP) for its statewide convention in San Jose, CA from February 26 – 28, 2016. At least 2,172 registered Democratic delegates and many others attended. The Party’s focus was to hammer out the planks its 2016 Platform – its statement of values -- and to endorse candidates running in the 2016 elections. The CA Peace Alliance’s focus was to infuse the platform and the elections with peacebuilding and to grow support for legislation to create a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR1111), which was introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in February 2015, exactly a year before this convention.
That means the CA Peace Alliance:
- submitted peacebuilding language for the 2016 CDP Platform during November 2015 and January 2016 and testified at the Platform Committee hearing during the convention
- connected with hundreds of CDP delegates, attendees and candidates, both at our booth and at meetings, to promote DoP legislation, restorative justice/ restorative practices, criminal justice reform, Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunity Mentoring Intervention Support and Education (PROMISE) Act legislation
- collected the letter signatures of over 250 individuals from throughout CA urging CA members of Congress to cosponsor DoP legislation
- urging individuals to AMPLIFY our efforts by calling members of Congress during or after the convention
- presented a certificate of appreciation to Darren Parker, Chair of the CDP African American Caucus, for his continuing support of DoP legislation, including testifying on our behalf at the 2013 CDP Legislation Committee hearing, which resulted in CDP endorsement of DoP legislation
- built our volunteer base and grassroots support
Our journey to build peace in the 2016 Platform – plank by plank – began in 2011 when we drafted language for the CDP 2012 Platform. It continued with submissions to the CDP 2014 Platform. Our 2016 advocacy included working to preserve earlier peacebuilding language and to expand upon that. To do this we looked at every plank and submitted/resubmitted language for almost half of the planks. In particular, we focused upon restorative justice in the criminal justice arena and restorative practices in schools and families.
The CDP incorporated into its 2016 Platform CA Peace Alliance language or adapted language in approximately half of the Platform planks (in 10 of 21 planks), including: Business and Economy; Children, Young Adults, and Their Families; Criminal Justice; Education; Energy and Environment/ Energy; Energy and Environment/ Agriculture and Food Safety; National Security; Seniors; Sustainable Communities; Veterans and Military Families; and, World Peace and International Relations.
In his speech at the convention, Vice President Joe Biden quoted Robert F. Kennedy, “There are those who look at things and ask why. I look at things and ask, why not?” Many other speakers echoed the Vice President’s hopeful speech on the possibilities of our nation …
Read the full report to learn more about Vice President Biden’s speech and the accompany security issues, perspectives from the CA Peace Alliance booth, honoring the chair of the African American caucus, and more details about the CA Peace Alliance contributions to the CDP 2016 Platform. See also separate article with CA Peace Alliance accepted submissions to CDP 2016 Platform.
I. CONVENTION OVERVIEW
Security or Not. This convention was both typical and atypical. It was typical in the diversity of attendees, candidates and issues, and the mix of speakers, caucus meetings, hospitality groups, and informal gatherings. It was unusual in that Vice President Joe Biden addressed the general session on Saturday afternoon, creating many security issues, with people waiting up to three hours in security lines before they could enter the convention area. Security confiscated apples, oranges, tangerines and water bottles. When Vice President Biden arrived, the Secret Service sealed off the general session meeting room and no one could get in or out. This meant there was next to no traffic at the exhibitor booths for hours on Saturday – the day we normally connect with the most people.
The security lines were challenging. “What I disliked most (and did not handle very well) was not being told in advance (to plan accordingly) about the over-the-top security system and total building lock-down situation on Saturday for Vice President Biden, causing me to miss two lunches and the organizational meeting of the Women's Democratic Clubs. Of course I did enjoy Vice President Biden's speech. Special thanks to Josh Roebuck's (Oakland volunteer) kindness in getting me water during my melt-down,” said Jerilyn Stapleton (Hollywood volunteer).
It took Stephanie Thomas (Berkeley volunteer) almost two hours to get through the security line and by the time she got to the CA Peace Alliance booth, things were quiet there. “I did meet some nice people in the security line, and enjoyed seeing familiar faces from the San Francisco Bay area and also delegates from elsewhere. One highlight was when I ran into Darren Parker, Chair of the African American caucus, and enjoyed a nice brief conversation with him. He was so appreciative of our Peace Alliance group,” Stephanie Thomas said.
Feelin’ the Bern. While people were making their way through security lines, a “very large and energetic” group of Bernie Sanders supporters gathered outside of the security gates. Elisabeth Scharbaum (Oakland volunteer) said she was viscerally moved by the powerful and peaceful wall of Bernie supporters with their banners and chanting “Bernie now.” Instead of giving up her water bottles to security, Stephanie gave them to some of the Bernie supporters.
Vice President Joe Biden’s Speech. The up side to Saturday’s events was Vice President Biden’s message of hope and possibilities. He quoted Robert F. Kennedy, “There are those who look at things and ask why. I look at things and ask, why not?” The Vice President said America is a place where everyone should have a chance, that it is within our power to rebalance the inequities in this county, that things work best when we all work together. He elaborated on a way to eliminate a single tax loophole to make available monies for such things as free junior college and childcare – creating opportunities for millions without substantially impacting the very wealthy. When asked by a Chinese leader some time ago, Vice President Biden said he could define America in one word: possibilities. America is built upon dreaming big, not upon seeing limits. We need to change the current tone so that every child in this country gets to dream big. That is our basic obligation, he said.
Others echoed the Vice President’s message. CA Senate President Pro tem Kevin de Leon said, “We’re California. We don’t build walls -- we tear them down.” Assemblywoman Tony Atkins talked about empathy, empowerment and equality. CA State Controller Betty Yee said over six million Californians live in poverty and called upon all to be humane. CA Teachers Association President Eric Heins said, “Organize, don’t agonize.”
II. PERSPECTIVES FROM THE BOOTH & BEYOND
At our booth, we dialogued with people about peacebuilding and asked them to write and call members of Congress seeking their co-sponsorship of DoP legislation. We gathered over 250 signatures to members of Congress. – from more than 116 communities throughout CA. A small sample of those who urged support of a DoP includes: former El Cerrito Mayor Janet Abelson, current El Cerrito Mayor Greg Limon, Tom Hayden, former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and CA State Senator Isadore Hall. We thank hundreds in the CDP who have helped promote peacebuilding in the past and who continue to sign our letters and petitions and to spread the word about peacebuilding.
Once again, the CDP placed us next to the Brownie Mary Democratic Club booth which advocates for legalization of recreational marijuana. After the club’s sugar-laden (three flavors of ice cream, non-laced brownies, a multitude of toppings and sauces, alcohol) hospitality suite on Saturday night, one of the booth volunteers explained why he was so functional on Sunday morning. Those who were drinking on Saturday night would have had a hard time getting up. Those who were using medical marijuana did not have that problem, he said.
Our booth was near the Bernie Sanders for President booth, across the aisle from the Carpenter’s Union and around the corner from the Loretta Sanchez for US Senate campaign. We fanned out and gathered support from individuals at many booths, including individuals from the Bernie Sanders campaign and Nurses for Bernie Sanders, the Sierra Club, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and campaigns involving other candidates and issues. We also informed Bernie Sanders’ supporters that he was an original cosponsor of Department of Peace(building) legislation during all three sessions when Bernie Sanders was in Congress and there was a DoP bill (2001, 2003, 2005).
For Kendra Mon (Petaluma volunteer), highlights included:
- Seeing first hand the tremendous time, energy, and commitment of our fearless leaders (and other volunteers) in action.
- The people who knew what our booth was all about and wanted to see what was new.
- The people who just wanted to see our team leads and hang out a bit.
- The number of young people there.
- Meeting some of the candidates up close and personal and being able to ask about their peacebuilding/Restorative Justice stances. CA Attorney General candidate Dave Jones told me he is an advocate for Restorative Justice and worked with former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for 3 years. He said she was so interested and such an advocate for Restorative Justice that she visited with Native Americans to learn more about their circle practice and that she was a very early advocate for drug courts that deal with crimes of drug users in a way that includes treatment.
- People at our table who wanted to know what U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris had to say about war and alternatives to war and figured we would know. I didn't, so I went to ask at her booth. The booth manager said that he hasn't heard her talk specifically about our bill or peacebuilding, in general, but that she talks about focusing on the root causes of war and alleviating those in order to achieve peace.
- Great to meet some new booth volunteers.
“My main impressions, aside from the Secret Service weirdness, are that the CA Peace Alliance is becoming a bit of a fixture at CDP statewide meetings, in a good way; numerous people came by the booth who had signed petitions at previous conferences (and didn't realize that these were new ones until we made that clear; and numerous people came by the booth who had never heard of DoP or Peace Alliance or peacebuilding, and whether or not they went away skeptical or intrigued, now they've heard of it all,” said Josh Roebuck (Oakland volunteer).
Elisabeth Scharbaum said she enjoyed meeting a new volunteer and talking with “veteran” volunteers “while we were ‘locked up’ ... great to be in a room with so many like-minded others as antidote to all the crazy hate talk all around us … good to see 'real life" companies in the mix ... overall reaffirming: we are not alone.”
One highlight for Jerilyn Stapleton was her conversation at the booth with a Veteran for Peace who does tabling and loved the new ‘Make Peace a Priority: U.S. Department of Peacebuilding’ postcard the National DoP team put together.
In addition to postcards, DoP literature, and Youth PROMISE Act literature, we distributed literature about the “Five Cornerstones of Peacebuilding” – 1) cultivate personal peace; 2) teach peace in schools; 3) empower community peacebuilding; 4) humanize justice systems; and 5) foster international peace -- all of which are embodied in the Department of Peacebuilding legislation. As stated in Peace Alliance literature, peacebuilding is our next frontier, “We are a grassroots educational and advocacy organization focused on transforming how individuals, communities, and nations respond to conflict and violence. The prevention and intervention solutions we promote have proven effective in saving lives and dollars while enhancing cooperation skills and increasing social resilience. We champion evidence-based peacebuilding legislation and policies by encouraging policy-makers, the media and the public to support these conflict, and violence reduction approaches.”
The display included a board with the names of attendees who “call for peace,” a “Mainstream Peacebuilding” poster and a poster on peacebuilding, describing peacebuilding as practical, preventive, cost-effective, restorative, transformative and evidence-based. We also posted information about city and organization endorsers of DoP and a list thanking Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) for sponsoring HR 1111 and members of Congress for cosponsoring the legislation, including the following CA members of Congress: Judy Chu (CA-27), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Sam Farr (CA-20), Janice Hahn (CA-44), Mike Honda (CA-17), and Maxine Waters (CA-43). “The table was beautiful … I think the most dynamic of those there. I am awestruck and so grateful for all of the work that was put into this,” said Stephanie Thomas.
Best of all, Kendra Mon said, “was the grandmother who said she always loved coming to our booth, that it was her favorite. When I asked why, she said that she feels bad about the world we created and are leaving to her grandchildren but that we were really doing something to make it better. She responded gladly to the request to call our chosen members of Congress over the weekend.”
After the convention, we contacted the Washington DC offices of select CA members of Congress and delivered letters and signatures from more than 250 Californians urging each to cosponsor DoP legislation. Some CA peacebuilders, who were not able to attend the convention, joined our efforts to urge members to cosponsor. Some of us went from the convention to an event in Fremont, CA – “Hands Around the Mosque” – advocating for friendship, not fear. Others went to community forum in Marin City on racial justice and featuring Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Jared Huffman.
III. HONORING DARREN PARKER, CAUCUSES & MEETINGS
Honoring Darren Parker. During the African American caucus meeting, the CA Peace Alliance presented to Chair Darren Parker a certificate of appreciation for his support of legislation to create a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding and his help as we worked for endorsement by the Legislation Committee (and ultimately the entire Party) in 2013 and 2015. Jerilyn Stapleton read the certificate, “We deeply honor Darren Parker for his accomplishments and commitment to peace and justice for California’s people and communities.” “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” – Dalai Lama XIV.
She also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” Lily Marie (Rough and Ready volunteer) presented Darren Parker with a personal donation toward his campaign for State Assembly. Nancy Merritt (El Cerrito volunteer) – in Darren’s tradition of removing the African American caucus pin from his lapel – took the DoP button off her lapel, gave it to Darren and made him an honorary lifetime member to the CA Peace Alliance, which he appreciated.
Other Caucuses, Meetings & Encounters. The Women’s Caucus honored Senator Barbara Boxer, who is stepping down from the Senate at the end of her term and who said she is not retiring, but will continue to work for CA “unplugged, unfiltered and uncensored …” That caucus also honored or celebrated Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Maxine Waters and others. The Labor Caucus was packed “wall to wall.” The CA Alliance of Democratic Women’s Clubs (CADWC) met. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich spoke at a CDP dinner.
Others who addressed the convention or caucus sessions and/or who we talked with include: Rep. Ami Bera, CA Gov. Jerry Brown, CA Senate President pro Tem Kelvin De Leon, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Dave Jones (running for CA Attorney General), Rep. Janice Hahn, Congressional Candidate Isadore Hall, Kamala Harris (running for U.S. Senate), Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Anthony Rendon (CA Assembly Speaker-Elect), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (running for U.S. Senate), Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), and CA State Controller Betty Yee. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, addressed the convention via pre-recorded video as, at the time of the recording, Jennifer was on the verge of giving birth to their fourth child who was born during the convention.
IV. CA TPA PLATFORM CONTRIBUTIONS
We took part in the CDP process of building a platform, one plank at a time. From 11/15 to 01/16, we worked (not fought) to retain in the CDP 2016 Platform as much of our 2012 and 2014 language as possible. We also submitted new 2016 language – some of which was accepted in full, some in part and some was combined/ streamlined as part of the language ultimately adopted for the 2016 CDP Platform. Some of our suggestions were substantive, some stylistic or fairly minor. We submitted language in November and were satisfied with the CDP’s incorporation and/ or adaption of that language in all planks for which we submitted language, except one – Equality of Opportunity – which we asked the committee to reconsider at its 02/26/16 hearing.
This involved what we consider overuse of the work “fight” (both in the platform and in general) when less violent, less confrontational language might work. Specifically, the Equality of Opportunity plank begins with: “To fight for all people to live with dignity and equality, California Democrats will …” Instead of ‘fight’, we asked the CDP to consider: “to work collaboratively, applying the tenets of non-violent action and peacebuilding to advocate …” While we did not win this “fight”, there was a good discussion on the importance of language in shaping and reflecting behavior. During this conversation, a committee member who is not know for jocularity smiled – which one volunteer interpreted as meaning the committee member knows we will be back to take the word “fight” out of the platform.
See separate sidebar for a list of CA Peace Alliance language in the CDP 2016 Platform. To read the entire CDP 2016 Platform, go to www.cadem.org.
V. THANK YOU CA VOLUNTEERS AND DONORS
Volunteers are the heart and soul of peacebuilding. They are out there doing the daily work of connecting and advocating for a culture of peace. Thank you to those who helped us get to the convention – through donations, ideas, moral support – and those who volunteered during the convention, including: Brian Gibbs (San Diego), Daniel Kenney (Morgan Hill), Maggi Koren (Windsor), Lily Marie (Rough & Ready), Doug Merritt (El Cerrito), Nancy Merritt (El Cerrito), Kendra Mon (Petaluma), Lorrie Norby (Mill Valley), Josh Roebuck (Oakland), Elisabeth Scharbaum (Oakland), Corinne Smith (Oakland), Jerilyn Stapleton (Hollywood), Bonnie Thomas (Weed), Stephanie Thomas (Berkeley), Ann Wallace (Grass Valley) and Dave Wallace (Grass Valley).