PEACE AND JUSTICE CENTERS
(KUNM Airdate: 2/23/07)
This time we'll ask, what role do peace centers play in communities?
Whom do they serve and what have they accomplished? How can a community start
one for itself? On this program, host Carol Boss talks with representatives
of peace centers in Albuquerque and Las Vegas, New Mexico and Burlington,
Vermont to find out how their centers came to be and what peace issues are
priorities in their communities. Featured are Serena Chaudhry (Burlington,
Vermont), Pat Leahan (Las Vegas, New Mexico) and Maria Santelli (Albuquerque,
Click here to hear the program as an MP3.
You may also find out more about the Peace Talks Radio series at www.peacetalksradio.com
CD copies of this program are available. For more information, email email@example.com or send a check made payable to GOOD RADIO SHOWS, INC. in the amount of $15.00. The price includes postage and handling. Mail your check to Good Radio Shows, PO BOX 35442, Albuquerque, NM 87176. Expect delivery in 2 to 3 weeks.
Transcription: Rogi Riverstone
Why should everybody in a community, not just peace and justice activists,
care to have a center? Serena in Burlington, Vermont?
heyday was really in the eighties. Then, in the nineties, with the Clinton
years, of course, there wasn't much going on with so many peace and
justice issues. On the whole, Albuquerque activism slowed down. Our
Peace and Justice Center was a quiet, little place. But once September
eleventh happened, the Center exploded with activity. People walked
through the door who, maybe, had never been there before - or who hadn't
been there in ten years. They said, "Thank you, so much, for being here.
Thank you for opening your doors." We were being a place where they
knew they could go. People felt a collective mourning, a collective
sorrow. But, at the same time, they were moved to raise their voices
for peace. They knew that this little Center on the corner of Harvard
and Silver in Albuquerque was there. So they came. Maybe they hadn't
been there before, but they knew where to go.
Peace and Justice Centers advocate for what are generally considered
progressive or, what some would call "liberal," causes. What do you
do to reach across the political aisle? How do you build bridges, so
you are not just "preaching to the choir?"
BOSS: How did each of your centers get started? The Peace and Justice Center in Burlington is the oldest of the three. It was founded in 1979. Serena Chandrey, tell us what issues were the catalyst for the birthing of your center.
The founders of the center, Wendy Coe and Robin Lloyd, came together
to build the center to connect the issues of nuclear power and nuclear
weapons. Wendy and Robin were gathering people together in their homes.
People were talking and protesting. That group, that energy, needed
a place to go. They wanted this group to grow and be bigger than their
homes. That's when they made the conscious decision to create a center,
a place, a space, where people could come together around issues of
nuclear power and nuclear proliferation.
Yes, 1983. Our center was originally founded as Action for Nuclear Disarmament.
It was later changed to the Albuquerque Center for Peace. Then, "Justice"
was added. Folks around here, in New Mexico, felt that it was not only
an opportunity to organize around nonproliferation and an end to the
Cold War, but also our responsibility as New Mexicans, as people living
in the birthplace of the nuclear bomb. Our founders, Kent Zook, Blanche
Fitzpatrick and Dorie Bunting, felt similar to folks in Vermont. They
needed a place to come together: a safe place where people could network,
learn from each other's work and support one another. It was 1983, the
height of the Cold War and the height of the Reagan years, as well.
People felt they needed not only a space to do organizing, networking
and sharing information - but also a safe space to get in, off the streets,
out of people's homes.
BOSS: Many peace centers have the words, "peace" and "justice" in their names. Many of the centers take on social justice issues. What's the relationship between peace and justice?
LEAHAN: On the front of our brochure for the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center, we have a quote from Martin Luther King, which says, "Peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice." You can have an absence of tension, or folks getting along, but hand-in-hand with that has to go some form of justice. At our Peace Center, we focus on social justice.
CHAUDHRY: We work along similar lines. Our working motto, for years, has been, "If you want peace, work for justice." Thus has been the programming at the Peace and Justice Center. We look at the interconnectedness of economic and racial justice, and peace and human rights. By working in each of those areas, we work toward achieving justice in our communities and the world at large, in the hope that it is a step toward creating a peaceful society. We have four projects. One is the Economic Justice Project. That has really taken on a life of it's own, over the past decade. It is home to the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign, which is the only, statewide, livable wage campaign in the country. That campaign has been instrumental in increasing the minimum wage in Vermont, which currently exists at $7.53. It's one of the top ten minimum wages in the country. It has made "livable wage" a household saying, in the state of Vermont. One of the reasons it has been so successful is that it has been a grassroots effort, as well as a more macro and legislative effort. We've organized people at the grassroots level: teachers, tipped workers, laborers, to help us push these issues and to testify at the capitol. We've worked at the legislative level to pass legislation that increases the minimum wage and pushes it toward a livable wage. More recently, we've added a COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment), which increases the minimum wage each year.
BOSS: How would you see that as related to peace?
CHAUDHRY: We're working for justice in our society. When there is the absence of poverty and inequality - when people have access to their basic needs - there is going to be stability in their lives. That reverberates into their communities, which - from our perspective - decreases the violence and tensions that lead to upset and then to war.
SANTELLI: The obvious link is a democratic distribution of wealth and resources is what leads to peace. We try to educate on that issue, educate on the disparity on what's spent on human needs and what's spent on preparation for war. Particularly here, in New Mexico, our economy is, unfortunately, dependent on war and the military industrial complex. The natural link there is in supporting human needs with adequate amounts of resources.
I would say that a center that's willing to take on issues of class
is really important. We can speak out against war. We can try to stop
nuclear weapons and all of that, but the issue of class is a big one.
It runs deep. In this state, in particular, it's a big issue. So, I'm
really grateful to the centers that combine both concepts, of peace
WEBSITES AND OTHER RESOURCES
PEACE AND JUSTICE CENTER OF VERMONT