Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

Staying Woke, Getting Civic & Building Peace at CA Dem Statewide Meeting

By Nancy Merritt · December 03, 2017

DoP & MLK Freedom Center Volunteers <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span>

DoP & MLK Freedom Center Volunteers


DoP Group & Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span> DoP Group Tabling at E-Board <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span> Stephanie Thomas Getting Petition Signatures <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span>

“We have a moral obligation to ‘stay woke’, take a stand and be active; challenging injustices and racism in our communities and fighting hatred and discrimination wherever it rises,” says Rep. Barbara Lee.

The CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaign (DoP) and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center “got civic” together at the CA Democratic Party (CDP) Executive Board meeting from November 17-19, 2017.  The two groups tabled and networked to highlight the importance of staying woke, civic engagement and building peace.  The CA DoP Campaign also submitted peacebuilding/ restorative practice language to the Platform Committee for inclusion in the CDP 2018 Platform.

Approximately 300 elected officials and candidates, Party officials and active CA Democrats, and community members attended.  The DoP group and the MLK Freedom Center volunteers talked with many attendees.

I.  Overview

“Being around so much power really makes you understand what power truly is and how people use it.  Some people use the power of money, others use the power of their name, and others relied on people power,” said Angela Drake, 11th Grade, Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center student.

The CA DoP group advocated for establishment of a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111), which is sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), and for legislation to restrict the first use of nuclear weapons, genocide and atrocities prevention bills, and bills to restructure the system of money bail which disproportionately impacts the poor.  The DoP group also a) supported “The Global Resolution for the Establishment of Infrastructures to Support the Culture of Peace”  (www.Peacenow.com); b) provided holiday cards encouraging legislators and friends to support creation of a U.S. DoP and wishing them a peaceful world; and c) publicized the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland.  (See www.mlkfreedomcenter.org)

The Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center (Freedom Center) group, wearing “‘VOTE. TO US, YOU MATTER!  #GETCivic” tee shirts, talked about that campaign, the Center’s work with young people, upcoming Winter Life and Legacy classes for students and the Center’s lecture series, including a lecture by Anita Hill on March 4, 2018.  The Freedom Center was founded by Congresswoman Lee.  The students also did an A+ job gathering petition signatures urging member of Congress to cosponsor HR 1111 and networked with many office holders, candidates and attendees.

“It was a joy combining the experience of the DoP group with the energy and enthusiasm of the Freedom Center students and staff.  If we are going to build peace, we have to do it together.  Part of the DoP legislation incorporates the Hopi idea — '‘Together with all nations, we protect both life and land and hold the earth in balance.’  We have to work for hope over hate and we have to do this together,” said Nancy Merritt.  

“The young people from the MLK Freedom Center were very impressive.  Their responses to my questions were heartfelt and articulate.  On top of that, after they answered my question, they asked my experience or thoughts on the same questions.  When I congratulated them on what they were doing, they thanked me for our efforts as well.  Wow!” said Kendra Mon.

Thank you to volunteers and supporters from the CA DoP (Brian Gibbs, Maggi Koren, Lily Marie, Doug Merritt, Nancy Merritt, Kendra Mon, Lorrie Norby, Josh Roebuck, Jerilyn Stapleton and Stephanie Thomas) and the MLK Freedom Center staff and students (Karen Bohlke, Angela Drake, David Gaines, Matthew Kalan and Kei Yamamoto).

II.  The MLK Freedom Center

In a posting on the Freedom Center’s web site, staffer Kei Yamamoto wrote, “There was a point recently where I stopped and looked at the world around me. What I saw and felt was endless pain that stretched, and stretched, like rolling fields. In that observation, I noticed, too, that pain and suffering was unnecessary. We do not have to continue on like this. Yet, what could I do? I am only one person. A drop in the sea.”

“As I searched for a sign, I found the Freedom Center. I owe to this organization my sense of hope in today’s trying times. This organization has instilled in me a sense of responsibility to serve others to my utmost best and to live according to my values and principles. The Freedom Center has truly taught me that we have an inherent right and moral duty to do what is right without procrastination and with full fervor. Where we see pain, we must bring healing. Where we see violence, we must bring justice. Where we see individualism, we must bring home unity of brother and sister. It is no longer a question of ‘what can I do?’ It is now a statement that what we must do is bring change forward, and that change begins with us.”

About the CDP Executive Board meeting, Freedom Center volunteers said:

  •  “We as humans are taught to ‘do the right thing’.  Today's event gave us that feeling, no matter if you were getting signatures for a petition or tabling, you were surrounded by people who support you. Every person you go to or visit you always felt welcome,” said Matthew Kalan, 10th grade, Kipp King Kalighat.
  • Today’s event meant a lot to me, lately we have all had some insight that we are in troubling times. It felt nice to see so many servants for justice. It felt nice to see so many people willing to sacrifice their time and energy to contribute towards a stronger democracy and a more perfect union,” said David Gaines, 12th grade, Alameda Science and Technology Institute.
  • “The Democratic Executive Board Committee Meeting with the Peace Alliance was a true privilege to have been a part of. It is a unique honor to be in the presence of and connect with the folks who fight tirelessly to strengthen democracy,” said Kei Yamamoto, Staff member.

III.  Actions & Activists

Many issues came up at the Executive Board meeting, from sexual harassment and abuse to gun violence to economic inequality and tax reform to healthcare to free college tuition to disaster relief and more.  The issues manifested in many venues – at the booths, in discussions about the CDP 2018 Platform, through adopted resolutions and in discussions in the halls and other meetings.

“I have been reminded of the energy that goes into the meetings and conferences.  Everyone in attendance is striving to be noticed and have their important projects and campaigns heard.  It's not just those who are running for office who we tend to have deeper face to face conversations - with the knowledge that they are listening intently even though the plan is to get our votes our money and our willingness to campaign for them; it is also the many delegates who represent solutions for the many injustices that disturb us.  Our mouths become parched and our hearts and minds spill over with the satisfaction of being heard and with the joy that comes from reaching out to like-minded people, activists and leaders, who want to know more,” said Maggi Koren.

IV.  Booths, Office Holders and Office Seekers

There were issue and candidate booths. 

Our legislative actions included following up on our National Department of Peacebuilding Advocacy Days in Washington, DC during October.  We asked attendees to contact their Representative and Senators to cosponsor:

  • HR 1111, the United States Department of Peacebuilding Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), would create a cabinet-level department to research, articulate, and promote the best available practices to reduce violence, transform conflict, and enhance cooperation – both domestically and internationally. 
  •  HR 669 and companion bill S 200, Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, prohibit the President from using the Armed Forces to conduct a first-use nuclear strike unless such strike is conducted pursuant to a congressional declaration of war expressly authorizing such strike.  The House bill was introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and the Senate Bill was introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA).
  • HR 3030 and S 1158, Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, would help prevent acts of genocide and other atrocity crimes which threaten national and international security by enhancing United States Government peacebuilding capacities to prevent, mitigate, and respond to such crises.  HR 3030 was introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and S 1158 was introduced by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
  • HR 1437, No Money Bail Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), amends the Omnibus Crime Control & Safe Streets Act to eliminate JAG funding for states with money bail systems and prohibits payment of money as a condition of pretrial release in any federal criminal case.
  • S 1593, Pretrial Safety and Integrity Act of 2017, is a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).  It provides grants to States and Indian tribes to reform their criminal justice systems to replace the use of payment of money bail as a condition of pretrial release in criminal cases, thereby providing for a more equal and effective criminal justice system for the people of the United States.

By far the most booths were for those seeking federal and state offices, including candidates for the US congress, governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state superintendent of education.  Many supporters walked around with signs for their candidates.  There was a cardboard cutout of a spooky Donald Trump saying, “Paul Manafort Was My Campaign Chair.”

Candidates and officials stopped by their booths and wound their way through caucuses and other meetings.  DoP and/or MLK Center volunteers met many – Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate Candidate Kevin DeLeon; gubernatorial candidates John Chiang, Delaine Easton, Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa; lieutenant governor candidate Eleni Kounalakis.  We met Congressional candidates, including Doug Applegate and Mike Levin.  Dave Jones, Insurance Commissioner and candidate for attorney general, was there.  We met candidates for state legislative offices and candidates for city offices.  We met Dolores Huerta and Norman Solomon.  Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Ro Khanna, and Rep. Barbara Lee spoke on “The AAPI Perspective.”  Rep. Ted Lieu spoke at one of the General Sessions.  Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher was at the Executive Board meeting. 

V.  CDP 2018 Platform

Every even year, the CA Democratic Party ratifies its platform.  The process involves language submissions from the public, testimony before the Platform Committee, Platform Committee issuance of a first draft and public amendment suggestions.  Prior to the 11/17/17 Executive Board meeting, the CA Peace Alliance/ CA DoP Campaign submitted peacebuilding/ restorative practices/ other suggestions for language to the Preamble and 19 of the 21 planks.   We will know the outcome of our plank suggestions when the CDP votes on final approval of the CDP 2018 Platform at the CDP Convention in February 2018. 

The Platform Committee received over 300 submissions and more than half of those were submitted within 48 hours of the Platform Committee hearing on 11/17/17.  We attended that meeting and will follow up on our suggestions as the process continues.  The Platform Committee voted to add a new plank:  Rural.  Committee members also discussed the possibility of a new plank relating to housing and homelessness.  Many testified for free college tuition.  One of our plank suggestions was for free preschool.

We submitted language suggestions for the following sections: I. Preamble; II. Business & Economy; III. Children, Young Adults & Their Families; IV. Civil Justice; V. Communications & the Internet; VI.  Criminal Justice; VII. Culture & the Arts; IX. Disabilities; X. Education; XI. Energy & the Environment; XII. Equality of Opportunity; XIII. Health Care; XIV. Immigration; XV.  Labor, Economic Justice & Poverty Elimination; XVI. National Security; XVIII.  Seniors; XIX. Sustainable Communities; XX. Veterans & Military Families; XXI. Women; and XXII.  World Peace & International Relations.

VI.  Resolutions

The CDP adopted resolutions about many issues:

  • Unprioritized August 2017 Executive Board Resolutions.  Chemical Contaminants From Military Bases
  • International Issues.  Demand for Humanitarian Intervention In Myanmar (Burma), Resolution Condemning Myanmar’s (Burma's) Persecution of the Rohingya
  • Federal & International Issues.  Urge Congress to Join California Representatives Calling for Direct Talks with North Korea
  • Federal Issues:  Protecting Young People in the DACA Program - Standing with Dreamers; Confederacy and History Education; Commitment to Support and Rebuilding After Disasters; 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066 - Japanese American Camps - NEVER AGAIN
  • State Issues.  Project Labor Agreement Resolution; Reaffirming Democratic Party Support for Labor; Increasing Student Voter Engagement; Denounce the Influence of Money in Politics, and Act in Accordance With the California Democratic Party (CDP) Platform; Animal Agriculture and Our Environment; Stop Nestle's Water Raid; Commending the First Responders; Standing up Against Sexual Harassment; Real Infrastructure Investments.
  • Local.  Resolution in Support of Port Truck Drivers

One of the most prevalent issues at the Executive Board meeting was confronting sexual abuse and harassment.  The CDP adopted a resolution regarding ‘Standing Up Against Sexual Harassment’ which includes, in part:

  • … THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the California Democratic Party stands in solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment, and encourages all Democrats to demand policies at the local, state, and national level that eliminate sexual harassment; allow victims of harassment to confidentially report their harassment through  hotline; require transparency, accountability, and input from survivors and victim advocates in harassment policy creation, procedural implementation, and training; employ whistleblower protections, anti-retaliation provisions and mandatory sexual harassment training at the workplace; complete harassment investigations conducted by professional and independent investigators; allow victims to sue their harassers; allow victims to have a day in court; end forced agreements which burden victims with silence and shame and prevent future employers from discovering harassment settlements; and
  • THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the California Democratic Party must actively and continually strive to ensure that our Party is a place free from harassment, discrimination, abuse, bullying and intimidation, where every person is able to contribute their activism towards building the progressive future our state and country deserve.

VII.  Confronting Sexual Abuse and Harassment

Prior to and at the Womens Caucus, Caucus Chair Christine Pelosi said, ““The last few days have made clear that the pervasive, demeaning and degrading harassment women face in political circles is a problem that goes beyond partisanship and everyone is accountable. We as Democrats must continually strive to advance equality for all. The bipartisan #WeSaidEnough movement started by Adama Iwu is a clarion call to do better immediately.

“We stand by the coalition’s call for much-needed reform, including the following suggestions for workplace procedures:

  1. A confidential hotline to report incidents of harassment or abuse.
  2. An independent outside entity, staffed by professionally trained investigators, to review and make determinations on claims;
  3. Public disclosure of how tax dollars are used to adjudicate claims and settlements;
  4. A party that holds candidates and elected officials accountable to promote and maintain a safe culture for all; and,
  5. Laws that provide whistleblower and retaliation protections for all victims.

“Our party should be an inclusive place where people can achieve their potential and make real contributions to a progressive future for our country. Democrats at every level must embrace a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and assault, from small clubs to our candidates to our national party … And it’s incumbent upon every single one of us to build a culture that respects and values women and the contributions we have made to our Party…” Christine Pelosi said.

Kendra Mon said, “The Women's Caucus was enlightening and endarkening/sad and encouraging.  I was so impressed at the efforts to encourage and support women in the statehouse telling their stories and so sad to hear how their experiences often turned them off politics.  Once again, I realized how small and limited we can make ourselves in a sexist and patriarchal society - - both women and men ...  With the continued revelations about sexual misconduct, I am not surprised but am also afraid there's a bit of a witch hunt mentality going on.  I also wish we had a DoP to help conduct real conversations about this as a society. “

VIII.  2016 Election Analysis & Free College Tuition

At the Progressive Caucus, authors of the Democratic Autopsy Report – Karen Bernal and Norman Solomon -- discussed their analysis of the 2016 elections and recommendations to the Party going forward, including policy and program recommendations and building/ valuing relationships with young people, people of color, woman and the rural community.  (See https://democraticautopsy.org/).

During that caucus meeting, proponents of free college tuition in California’s public colleges and universities – the $48 Fix –  advocated that free college tuition is necessary and affordable.  Built on the 1960 Master Plan, California’s three-segment public system of higher education — the Community Colleges, the California State University and the University of California — was for decades the opportunity-and-growth blueprint for California’s prosperity.

According to the $48 Fix (www.$48fix.org), universities have been looted over the last fifteen years as California’s political leaders have taken $57 billion in public investment away from higher education, including:

  • Drastic cuts to CSU and UC spending per student.  State spending per university student has been cut by nearly 40 percent—it’s now less than the state spends on the average 3rd Grader.
  • Soaring tuitions.  Student fees at community colleges have tripled (from $460 to $1,380). At the CSU, student tuition and fees have jumped nearly 170 percent (from $2,565 to $6,881); at UC they’ve climbed nearly 150 percent (from $5,529 to $13,566).
  • Exploding student debt.  In 2016, nearly 70,000 seniors graduated from the CSU and UC with $1.3 billion in student debt, up by more than 60 percent since 2004.  In the last dozen years, California public university graduates started out life with a total of $12 billion in debt.

Voter opinion polls rank restoring higher education ahead of other state priorities.  The $48 Fix proposes three steps to restore top-quality, public higher education to every qualified California student:

1. Make colleges and universities 100% tuition-free, as the 1960 Master Plan intended, eliminating almost all new student debt.

2. Return per-student funding for CSU and UC to where it was in 2000 (adjusted for inflation) before California’s political leaders started investing billions of dollars less in our colleges and universities.

3. Ensure there’s an opportunity to attend a public college or university for every in-state student ready and willing to do the work, just like California generations before them.

According to the $48 fix, California can afford the best in education.  It is it called ‘the $48 fix’ “because that’s all it costs the median California family to reclaim the higher education that every California family dreams of. California has the resources to restore its world-class higher education system.  Will it be cheap? No, simply because California is by far the biggest state in the country.  Multiply anything by 38 million people and you get a big number.  But if you divide a big number by 38 million people, and do it fairly, extremely valuable things can be surprisingly affordable.”

IX.  Interactions, Proleptic Eschatology (Say What?) and Observations

“I love being able to talk directly with candidates and hearing from their volunteers as well about why they support their chosen candidates.  I met some who were novices and unsure of themselves and felt good about being a supportive listener and appreciator of their enthusiasm,” Kendra Mon said.

One gentleman spent a fair amount of time at the DoP booth talking about the importance of the group wearing uniforms.  Maggi Koren and Kendra Mon were wearing their look-alike “Peace Alliance” sweat shirts at the time.

“I was tabling on Sunday when most of the CA Democratic Party (CDP) Executive Board attendees were in the General Session. Rather lonely. So I was pleasantly surprised when a man came and just pulled up a chair behind the table and sat down.  He was wearing a “John Chiang for Governor” t-shirt ... This volunteer, who had his own consulting business, talked to me about the future and how John Chiang now serving as CA. Treasurer with previous tenure as Controller, would be particularly capable in dealing with a probable rocky fiscal future while still maintaining CA’s progressive safety net of services and supports,” said Doug Merritt. 

“He asked me questions about my interests.  I told him one of our sons (at least) was interested in a quantum understanding of the brain and consciousness, but that I had no grasp of the subject.  I shared with him that I am a retired Lutheran pastor.  And when he asked me what I had learned in seminary, I suggested that one notion had really swept me away: proleptic eschatology.  ‘Preach on pastor,’ he said.  ‘Big word, rather clear meaning,’ I said.  ‘Living your future horizon hopes as present.’  Embody/flesh-out the future here in this place, now.  And he replied, ‘You have a better quantum understanding of time than you think.’” 

“A U.S. Department of Peacebuilding—I’m holding it in my consciousness as here… not as if it is here, but as ‘here.’ These places and opportunities for conversations where politics, spirituality and HR1111 are together -- so refreshing,” said Doug Merritt

Maggi Koren said the CA DoP Campaign has spent a lot of money for a table at these events, 21 times in fact, since 2010. “The price has been worth it because having such a table which educates the movers and the shakers of the Democrat Party -- the delegates who represent the growing number of Democrat Clubs and Central Committees in our 58 counties -- understand the purpose of the passage of HR 1111 and along with the CDP leadership have endorsed this legislation for three consecutive Congressional Sessions and now name us as a ‘Sponsor’."

Josh Roebuck said, “The party leaders and activists are familiar with us and the concepts we bring, and I had fewer of the types of conversations that used to be so typical, where the other person just had no context for what we were talking about.  In general people are a little bit more familiar with restorative justice, conflict resolution, peace education, than they used to be, it's seeped into the general background awareness a little bit.  All the more reason for us to stay the course and help it take root.” 

Nancy Merritt
On Behalf of the CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaign 

 

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