Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

San Diego Supports Dept. of Peacebuilding, Part I

By Nancy Merritt · July 08, 2019

The San Diego City Council proclaimed 5/23/19 as “Peacebuilding Advocacy Day” to honor the work of peacebuilding and advocacy for a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111).  San Diego now joins 45 other cities, counties and tribes that endorse establishment of a federal cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding (DoP), representing over 15.8 million people.  This proclamation, issued on behalf of the San Diego City Council and Mayor Kevin Faulconer, acknowledges years of peacebuilding advocacy by San Diegans.

 “The children and young people are our future and it is the responsibility of the City of San Diego to nurture these leaders of tomorrow.  San Diego youth and adult advocates have worked tirelessly to create a culture of peace in our lives, schools, communities, criminal justice system and internationally and have worked for many years to make peace and nonviolence a national priority,” said City Council Member Monica Montgomery during the celebration with students and community members at Millennial Tech Middle School.

The message of many speakers was that peacebuilding begins with each of us -- being positive, a smile, a gesture of kindness, friendship, listening, respect and extending empathy and compassion to others.  “Your main job in this world is to be your best self,” as Rosalene Glickman has said.  Peacebuilding is working together.  

In addition to Council Member Montgomery, speakers included Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne (San Diego Board of Education); educators Dr. Helen Griffith (CEO, e3 Civic High School and founding principal of Milennial Tech), Mrs. Lillie McMillan (former Porter Elementary School principal), Willie Neil (Millennial Tech principal); student and peacebuilding activist Cierra Cloud and two seniors from e3 Civic High; and San Diego DoP advocate Cynthia Gilliam.  Brianna Gibbs spoke in remembrance of her dad -- long-time San Diego and CA DoP advocate Brian Gibbs, who passed away last year.  Nancy Merritt spoke on behalf of the CA and National Department of Peacebuilding Campaigns.   The ceremony included a moment of silence for Brian Gibbs (DoP) and Gary Rollins (educator).   Cierra Cloud and Willie Neil emceed.

Messages of Peacebuilding
Cynthia Gilliam, told the students that respect is about paying attention and listening.  “Peace means love, kindness, happiness, giving.  As we give to you, I want you to take it out and give it to someone else.  I love you, that’s why I’m standing here today.”

Some students, like Cynthia’s granddaughter Cierra Cloud, started learning about peacebuilding before they even started school. Cierra was only three years old when she danced at a Kids for Peace gathering in San Diego.  She is now in high school and a seasoned peace advocate. She read a poem and said, “Be kind and peaceful and the killings, shootings, and stabbings will leave us.” One e3 Civic High School  student said if you put out positive energy, that will come back to you.  “The universe feels you and hears you. E3 has helped us learn how bring peace to those around us.”  Another said a school motto is to take care of each other.

School Board member, Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, said that as part of her work, she sees the names and records of students who get in trouble.  She does not want to see those names and reminded students of the song that says let peace begin with me.  Former principal McMillan said everything a person does can follow them throughout life -- choose to do good.

“I am happy to be here.  I drove all way from San Francisco to San Diego because you all are amazing and beautiful peacebuilders … I am here because of Brian Gibbs, Cynthia Gilliam, Cierra Cloud and this community.  As others have said, peace does begin with you.  Maya Angelou said to be the rainbow in somebody else’s cloud,” said Nancy Merritt, CA and National Department of Peacebuilding Committees.  “There is a Hopi saying that together with all nations, we protect both life and land and hold the earth in balance.  The main word there is ‘together’ -- we’re all doing this together.”

Peacebuilding Proclamation
The proclamation recognized “students, teachers and administrators from schools such as e3 Civic High School, Knox Middle School, Millennial Tech Middle School, Morse High School, Porter Elementary School, and Valencia School of Performing Arts, representatives of the spiritual community such as St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ and Bishop George D. McKinney, San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees, San Diego Unified School District Police Services representatives, San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees, and representatives of other community organizations who have worked tirelessly to promote peacebuilding.”

Events and campaigns that promote peace as a solution have been organized in the community, including the annual International Day of Peace rallies, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events, Mother’s Day Peace Advocacy meetings with U.S. Representatives and Senators, composition of postcards to President Obama and letters which have been hand delivered in Washington, D.C. to over 150 members of Congress, participation in Acts of Kindness, promotion of gun violence prevention measures, and other actions to promote peace for all members of our local, national and international community.”

Tribute toThose Who Have Passed
The ceremony included a moment of silence for Brian Gibbs (DoP) and Gary Rollins (educator).  During their lives, both supported San Diego young people and their allies in their peacebuilding advocacy.  Willie Neil said he worked with Brian for two years when students, educators and community members joined in CA DoP meetings with San Diego legislators to advocate on Mother’s Day that peace wants a piece of the federal budget pie.  “Brian had a big heart.  He would take us all out to eat.  I appreciate that Brianna Gibbs, his daughter, is here today to stand for Brian’s legacy.”

Brianna Gibbs, who is a social worker in San Diego and works with young people, said her dad was a very, very special individual who worked for almost 20 years for a Department of Peacebuilding, getting support from politicians, supporting Kids for Peace and watching Cierra Cloud grow up like another daughter.  

Brianna said her dad lived and breathed peace in his work life and personal life.  “He believed in striving for inner peace and where peace starts within yourself and spreading that love and joy and peace with everyone else.  He would be so proud and thrilled this [peacebuilding advocacy recognition and celebration] is happening …  My only advice is to just keep it going.  Know there are people out there who really care and want make the world a better place and you can be a part of that journey as well.”

“In addition to being the right thing, this action by the City Council, honors and supports the efforts of peacebuilding and peacebuilders.  CA DoP advocate Brian Gibbs worked for many years to make this happen.  He is smiling today,” said Nancy Merritt.

Be an Agent of Change
Millennial Tech Middle School founder and CEO of e3 Civic High School, Dr. Helen Griffith, challenged students to be that agent of change that will make a difference in this world.  She grew up in the neighborhood of Millennial Tech.

Dr. Griffith said all we have is today - peacebuilding is every day, tomorrow is not promised.  “What does peace is priority means?  Peace is the absence of hate, the absence of disrespect,  the absence of unkindness and the presence of kindness, love, a smile. Our hands are meant to help and not harm.  And everything we do is meant to change the world.  There is a saying that it starts with a dream -- I believe in change.  Everything  we do is meant to change the world ... Today is the day to make a difference."  She recited The Rousing Poem, a favorite of Ruby Dee and written by Beah Richards:  

Today is ours, let’s live it.  Love is strong, let’s give it.
A song can help, let’s sing it.  And peace is dear let’s bring it.
The past is gone, don’t rue it.  Our work is here, let’s do it.
The world is wrong, let’s right it.  The battle is hard, let’s fight it.
The road is rough, let’s clear it.  The future is vast, don’t fear it.
Is faith asleep? Let’s wake it. 
Because today is ours, let’s take it.  
Today is yours, let’s take it.

City, County & Tribe Endorsers of a DoP
Government entities that currently endorse establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding include:

  • Cities:  Albany, CA; Albuquerque, NM; Arcata, CA; Atlanta, GA; Berkeley, CA; Cambridge, MA; Charlottesville, VA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Corvallis, OR; Detroit, MI; Everett, MA; Gainesville, FL; Hamtramck, MI; Kalamazoo, MI; Las Cruces, NM; Lansing, MI; Lincoln City, OR; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Miramar, FL; Moab, UT; Newton, MA; Newark, NJ; Oakland, CA; Palo Alto, CA; Pine Lake, GA; Portland, OR; Providence, RI; San Diego, CA; San Jose, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sebastopol, CA; Silver City, NM; Traverse City, MI; Village of Los Lunas, NM; Waltham, MA; West Hollywood, CA; West Linn, OR.
  • Counties:  Grant, NM; Kauai, HI; Manistee, MI; Marin, CA; San Francisco, CA.
  • Tribal Councils:  Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, MI.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Perri Storey, in Councilmember Montgomery’s office, to Cynthia Gilliam and Sue Trisler (San Diego DoP) and to Lan Jefferson (All-In San Diego) for help with the final San Diego proclamation. Thank you to the San Diego and CA peacebuilding communities and the San Diego Americans for a Department of Peace. Thank you to the many, many people who have worked to secure city, county and tribal endorsements of the Department of Peacebuilding.


  • Photo #1 - San Diego & CA peacebuilding advocates with San Diego City Council Member Monica Montgomery
  • Photo #2 - San Diego & CA peacebuilding advocates with Department of Peacebuilding banner
  • Photo #3 - Brianna Gibbs
  • Photo #4 - Brian Gibbs

See also San Diego Supports Dept. of Peacebuilding, Part II

Peace on.

Nancy Merritt
CA and National Department of Peacebuilding Campaigns

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