Mother’s Day was originally a call for a day of peace by Julia Ward Howe after she experienced the horrors of war while tending the wounded during the American civil war. For Mother’s Day 2018 and beyond, we called for our nation to prioritize peacebuilding by establishing a Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111), seeking solutions to prevent gun violence and practicing peace in our personal lives, the community, schools, a more humane justice system and internationally.
Message. The message we took to legislators was that children are afraid to attend school, sacred spaces of worship have been shattered by bullets from weapons of war, and the feelings of really being safe in traditionally safe spaces are memories from the past. We are saying that is not acceptable and that peace wants a piece of the federal budget pie to prevent violence. What would our world look like if we prioritized peace by creating a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding? What if lives were not shattered by violence -- particularly the amplified violence from the threat of assault weapons -- if all people could live, each day, with hope instead of fear?
Status. This year the Mother’s Day “Peace-Wants-A-Piece-of-the-Federal-Budget-Pie” initiative included meaningful connections and some new ingredients, flavors and twists at May and June meetings with legislative offices in CA, CO, GA, IL, NM, and SD.
- Federal and state legislator visits. Every year Peace Alliance/ Campaign for a Department of Peacebuilding (DoP) volunteers commemorate Mother’s Day by visiting the local offices of our federal Representatives and Senators. This year, in addition to visiting federal offices, Northern Californians met with the offices of state Assembly Members and state Senators. This included visits to the offices of at least 10 Congressmembers, 8 US Senators, 2 CA Assembly members and 2 CA State Senators.
- Democratic and Republican offices. The 2018 pie visits included visits to the offices of at least 19 Democrats and 3 Republicans.
- Volunteers. Meeting attendees included: San Diego middle and high school students, a grandmother and her granddaughter, a school board member, a pastor, community and peacebuilding activists; long-time Department of Peacebuilding advocates and compadres in Northern CA, including those who are clergy, nurses, paralegals, social workers, teachers, writers; sisters and sister-in-law in Colorado and Sisters in South Dakota; veteran and first-time ‘pie’ activists in Georgia; long-time IL peacebuilders, activists and friends; and a 96-year-old peace award nominee in New Mexico.
- Visits, letters, phone calls. In IL, not only did the group visit several legislative offices, some from the community also sent letters or called to encourage legislators to build peace.
- History of meetings. We have visited some office many times in the past. Some were first-time pie visits. All enjoyed their pie and now link pie to the DoP request to make peacebuilding a national priority.
Our asks. At most visits, volunteers asked members of Congress to cosponsor legislation:
- Addressing the root causes of violence by supporting the Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2017 (H. R. 1111), which will develop policies that promote nonviolent intervention, national and international conflict prevention, structured mediation and peaceful resolution of conflict
- Committing resources to address the assault weapons threat, including passing and the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 (H.R. 5087) and the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017 (S. 2095)
- Establishing a Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention (H.Res. 367)
Other meeting topics included alleviation of poverty, access to quality education, voting, state-level departments/ office of peace(building), immigration reform, keeping SNAP, the farm budget, reduction of military spending, ending the cycle of endless wars, and working with Congress.
Pies of Choice. All offices welcomed the delivery of peace pies and are happy to see us (or at least our pies) year after year. In 2018, apple pie was the first place pie of choice, with homemade cheesecake in second place. Blueberry was selected by New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan because “everyone should eat blueberry pie because it represents the blue wave engulfing New Mexico.” For obvious reasons, our Georgia folks delivered Georgia pecan pies. Because the CA East Bay is home to the best olallieberry pie in the universe, the Oakland group delivered olallieberry pie to Rep. Barbara Lee’s office. Some delivered cherry and peach pies.
Photos. Photo #1 is at the office of Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) and includes San Diego DoP supporters and Kids for Peace. Photo #2 is at the office of Rep. Jared Polis (CO-2), a DoP cosponsor. Photo #3 is at the office of Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), a DoP cosponsor. Photo #4 is at the office of Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2).
For more about the flavors of the pie meetings, see Mother’s Day Peace 2018 – More No. CA & So. CA Photos and Mother’s Day Peace 2018 – NM & SD Photos.
A. CA Visits – Northern CA/ Oakland
In Oakland, Doug Merritt, Nancy Merritt, Josh Roebuck and Stephanie Thomas visited the office of DoP sponsor Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), which we have done for many years. For the third year in a row, the met with Jose Hernandez.
We thanked Rep. Lee for her many peacebuilding/ justice-related priorities, including: a) ensuring all children have access to high-quality education; b) expanding and protecting Medicare and Social Security; c) protecting undocumented youth and Sanctuary cities; d) making our communities safer; e) criminal justice reform and community policing; f) improving Veteran’s assistance; g) civil and human rights; h) meaningful gun control; i) health care for all; j) addressing the homelessness crisis; k) prioritizing action on climate change; and l) access to affordable housing. All reflect peacebuilding -- as factors that contribute to a culture of peace and/or as indicators of failure to prioritize peacebuilding and basic needs over war making and profiteering.
The group also thanked Rep. Lee for her for amendment to repeal 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and its blank check for endless war and for her ongoing efforts to eradicate poverty, including the recent Pathways Out of Poverty Listening Tour/ Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality.
We reported on the increasing number of organizations that support DoP legislation. No Oakland pie meeting of late would be complete without mentioning the Oakland-based Golden State Warriors and congratulating them on their most recent NBA Championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018. We took an olallieberry pie (the best olallieberry pie in the universe) and gave the Congresswoman a happy birthday card.
B. CA Visits – Northern CA/ Marin & Sonoma Counties
In May, the Marin/Sonoma County DoP group attended five pie meetings, including, for the first time, pie meetings with some CA state-level legislators as the CA DoP Campaign is now undertaking efforts to create a CA state-level department or office of peacebuilding and violence prevention. The DoP group sought advice on advancing a state-level department or office of peacebuilding and nonviolence legislation and promoted the federal DoP and gun violence prevention legislation. This group took homemade cheesecake to all meetings and consumed some cheesecake themselves.
On May 15, 2018, Maggi Koren, Kendra Mon and Lorrie Norby met with aides from the offices of Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA-2), CA State Assemblyman Mark Levine and CA State Senator Mike McGuire. In Rep. Huffman’s office, they met for the second time with aide Amy Schroeder who was “enthusiastic and appreciative of our efforts and understood what we are all about, saying it all made perfect sense.” In Assemblyman Mark Levine’s (D-AD10) office, aide Henry Symons was receptive to the ideas of peacebuilding and restorative justice. In State Sen. Mike McGuire’s (D-S02) office, aide Carole Mills knew about the DoP, supported the group’s goals and suggested arranging a meeting with Mike McGuire, which will take place in the near future.
A few days later, Maggi Koren and Kendra Mon met with aides from the offices of CA State Senator Bill Dodd and CA State Assemblyman Jim Wood. In State Sen. Bill Dodd’s (D-S03) office, aide Logan Pike, a former young Democrat who was familiar with the DoP and peacebuilding, told them about Sen. Dodd's SB 837, supporting transitional kindergarten for all 4 year-olds as a key step toward the prevention of school to prison pipeline and he mentioned a bail reform bill in the CA legislature. Dodd also supports campaign finance reform and greater transparency. Logan also told them about the Boys & Girls Clubs having clubs at Juvenile Hall. In the office of State Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-AD02), aide Ed Sheffield, who Maggi Koren knows, was supportive of peacebuilding efforts and advised finding out about the passions of legislators, what committees they serve on and their areas of expertise and pitching the CA state peacebuilding legislation to individual legislators.
C. CA Visits – Southern CA
In San Diego, CA the Department of Peacebuilding/ Kids for Peace group continued their multi-year tradition, starting in approximately 2009, of visiting the offices of that city’s members of Congress and the offices of CA’s two senators.
For many years, DoP volunteer Brian Gibbs organized these meeting. Several years ago, Cynthia Gilliam, her granddaughter Cierra Cloud, and others from Southeast San Diego Kids for Peace joined Brian, Sue Trisler and others from the San Diego DoP group. When Brian passed away in March, 2018, Cynthia – Brian’s long-time peace partner – stepped up to organize pie visits to the offices of Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA-53), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA-52) and Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA-51). Rep. Susan Davis is a DoP cosponsor. The group included both students and adults who are working for a culture of peace. They took apple pies to all four meetings.
Nine students, including seven from Millennial Tech Middle School and two from e3 Civic High School (Maxwell Blaine and Cierra Cloud), attended. Some students wore their school uniforms.
Adult attendees included: Pastor Patty Allen (Chaplain, Kids For Peace), Christine Elliott (Americans for a Department of Peace), Cynthia Gilliam (San Diego DoP, SE San Diego Kids for Peace), Lan Jefferson (All In San Diego), John McNeil (Americans for a Department of Peace), Pastor Romie, and Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne (San Diego School Board, Vice President).
In addition to promoting legislation to create a Department of Peacebuilding, the group talked about the urgency of gun violence prevention. Cynthia said the kids were disappointed to learn that their messages and letters had not been passed on to some of the Congressmembers in the past. They told staffers they were tired of bringing their messages of peacebuilding so many times and being ignored so many times – they will be voters very soon and they will not stop at visiting officials once a year to advocate for a DoP, gun violence prevention and other nonviolence measures. Students said officials need to listen to them, and let them be part of the process, let them have a seat at the table of policy making. San Diego adults and students plan to contact their members of Congress frequently.
D. Colorado Visit
Two sisters and their sister-in-law made a first-time “pie visit” to the office of Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO-2), who has been a DoP cosponsor during all sessions when he was in Congress (2009-present). Long-time DoP volunteer Nancy Merritt, who was visiting her family in Boulder, Colorado in May, persuaded her sister, Carolyn Beezley, and her sister-in-law, Jan Beezley, to join her in a meeting with Stuart Feinhor,(Senior Constituent Advocate, Veterans/ Seniors/ Healthcare) and a new intern. DoP volunteers have visited Rep. Polis’ DC office several times in the past.
Since Rep. Polis is running for governor of CO and will be leaving Congress, we thanked him for cosponsoring HR 1111 and talked with Stuart about the Congressman’s legislative interests and accomplishments. At the time of our meeting, Rep. Polis faced a crowded field in the Democratic Party gubernatorial race, which he subsequently won on primary day. In November, voters will choose between Rep. Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton.
The group commended Rep. Polis for his interest in education and introducing bills such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act (HR 5374) to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools). As of 7/27/18, this legislation had 155 cosponsors. We also discussed Rep. Polis’ founding of the New American School to extend benefits of English literary and education to new immigrants and the Academy of Urban Learning which educates homeless teens or those from unstable living environments. The group also discussed Veterans healthcare and the recent opening of the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Center in Aurora, CO.
Another topic was Colorado’s implementation of restorative justice and restorative practices in the criminal justice system and in schools, particularly about the work of CO State Rep. Pete Lee (Colorado Springs), who has worked for many years to make CO a leader in the area of Restorative Justice/ Restorative Practices which changes from retribution to restoration the idea of remedying harm done. He is running for a seat in the CO State Senate.
Since Rep. Polis already cosponsored most bills we discussed, we asked him to support restorative justice and restorative practices, particularly if he is elected governor of Colorado and to cosponsor End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (S. 411/H.R. 1498).
Stuart decided to serve the apple pie to approximately eight new interns who were to meet a couple of days after our meeting. He reported back that the pie was enjoyed by all.
E. GA Visits
Debra Poss and Zoe Haugo donned aprons to deliver pies (Georgia pecan, of course) and advocacy packets to the offices of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA-5) and Sen. David Purdue (R-GA). Debra has made Mother’s Day pie visits to the office of Rep. Lewis since 2011 and to Sen. Purdue’s office for three consecutive years. They thanked Rep. Lewis for cosponsoring DoP legislation in every single Congress since it was introduced in 2001 and they asked him to cosponsor the legislation to form a committee to study gun violence, which he did shortly after the pie visit. They asked Sen. Purdue to cosponsor the Senate Assault Weapons Ban. The staffer in that office smiled when she noticed Debra and Zoe were wearing aprons.
F. IL Visits
Three DoP volunteers, backed up by letters and phone calls from others, went to the offices of Illinois’ two senators and one Representative. The group has visited these offices multiple times in the past. On May 10, Linda Daniels, Karen Johnson and Cetta Smart delivered pies (one cherry, two apple) and advocacy packets to the offices of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL-2). Kathy Strasser and Michael Anthony from their Seed Planters Pax Christi Group sent handwritten letters and others called those offices.
Karen Johnson and Cetta Smart attended the first meeting, which was at the office of Rep. Kelly in Matterson, IL. Since she had just signed on as a co-sponsor of the Department of Peacebuilding legislation and is a big supporter of the gun reform legislation, they thanked her for both. They had a long conversation with staffer Rick Bryant about working together to make HR 1111 more bipartisan and the importance of voter turnout.
Daniels joined Karen and Cetta for visits to the Chicago offices of the two Senators, where they talked briefly with staffers about the origins of Mother’s Day and peacebuilding legislation.
At all three offices, they were met with smiles and welcome acceptance of the pies. In addition to handouts about DoP and gun violence prevention, they gave the legislators copies of a book entitled We Need a Department of Peace: Everybody’s Business, Nobody’s Job by William Benzon.
G. New Mexico Visits
At least two New Mexico groups celebrated Mother’s Day with ‘peace pies,’ including Patty Duncan and Sally-Alice Thompson who visited the offices of Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham (NM-1) and the San Juan County (New Mexico) Democratic Women who presented Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-3) with a pie and a request to support peacebuilding.
Patty Duncan and Sally-Alice Thompson took apple pies to their meetings:
- At Sen. Heinrich’s office Patty and Sally-Alice met with staffer Alex Eubanks, where they talked about groups in New Mexico that work to decrease violence. This was about the fifth pie meeting in over ten years at that office.
- This was the group’s first visit to the office of Rep. Lujan-Grisham. Here they discussed efforts to create an Office for Peace in New Mexico. Rep. Lujan-Grisham, a Democrat, faces Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican, in the race for New Mexico’s next governor.
- At Sen. Udall’s office, they met with staffer Michelle Kavanaugh, who was receptive to peacebuilding as she had kids in a school that had experienced a lockdown and they moved one of their children from one high school to another because of violence.
Sally-Alice Thompson, 96-years old, is one of seven outstanding Americans nominated for the US Peace Memorial Foundation’s 2018 Peace Prize. Other nominees are Daniel Ellsberg, Nancy Mancias, Colman McCarthy, David Swanson, Sharon Tennison and S. Brian Wilson. See www.uspeacememorial.org. Sally-Alice is a long-time peace activist; co-founder of Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice; co-founder of Veterans for Peace, Albuquerque; and a supporter of refugees.
On May 11, 2018, Pam Cardova, President of the New Mexico Federation of Democratic Women, forwarded to Georgina Davis the Department of Peacebuilding e-blast about Mother’s Day pie meetings. Georgina, who is President of the San Juan County Federation of Democratic Women, took the idea to her membership and they decided to present Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-3) with a piece of pie and information about the Department of Peacebuilding and other peacebuilding legislation when he attended their luncheon reception in Farmington, NM on May 1.
“We asked him for the name of his favorite pie. He told us blueberry, and he thinks everyone should eat blueberry pie because it represents the blue wave engulfing New Mexico. Lela Holmes presented a piece of blueberry pie to our favorite legislator, Ben Ray … we also gave to him and his office staff a written message asking him to support the peace effort,” said Georgina.
H. South Dakota Visits
Pax Christi-Aberdeen SD members/ Presentation Sisters Gabriella Crowley, Myra Remily and Pat Prunty took pies on May 11, 2018 to the offices of Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), asking for a “Piece of the national budget for building peace. Immigration reform, keeping SNAP and the farm budget, reduction of military spending and concern about our dysfunctional Congress were among the issues discussed.” At Sen. Rounds’ office, they met with staffer Josh Haeder and at Sen. Thune’s office they met with staffers Sophie Doeden and Aimee Kemp. Pax Christi-Aberdeen has conducted “pie meetings” for about ten years. They took cherry and peace pies. Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an organizational endorser of legislation to create a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding.
Thank you to all who participated. Pie on.
On Behalf of the National and CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaigns
And Pie-Givers All