Some very exciting news out of California. Thanks to our CA Peace Alliance organizers and other key supporters, the CA Democratic party recently endorsed legislation to establish a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding and a peacebuilding platform.
This is a very meaningful development. CA Democratic party (CDP) only endorses a handful of bills each session — and it’s some of the most comprehensive peacebuilding support in any party platform in the nation. In fact, neither party has done a good job of including peacebuilding language in their platforms, and with CA being the largest state in the union, this could be real trend setter.
New provisions to both the CDP Platform of 2012 and DoP 2013 include:
- Provide for public education programs that promote tolerance and respect for diversity
- Create school and community cultures where students and staff are free from bullying and harassment by implementing curricula in nonviolent conflict resolution education for teachers, students, parents, school community and community at large
- Assist in re-entry for incarcerated individuals by including training in anger management, peacebuilding skills, life skills, education and job skills
- Assist in creating strong & healthy families, including supporting mental health service, domestic violence prevention, gang prevention, anti-bulling programs, substance abuse prevention, and parenting skills
- Provide restorative justice programs in the criminal justice system to bring together offenders, victims, and community members to repair harm through accountability and rehabilitation.
Big props to our CA team, and all those who helped! Their vigilance and hard work paid off.
“CDP officials told us to make them support peacebuilding — and that’s just what we did. We took peacebuilding to the Party. Hard work, strategy, education, networking, coalition building and some luck resulted in the CDP’s dual peacebuilding endorsements. This involved not only blood, toil, sweat and tears, but also perseverance, learning, listening, connecting, alignment of the stars and real joy,” said Nancy Merritt, Peace Alliance State Coordinator.
You can read Nancy’s full report below, along with the official language from the CDP resolution (at bottom).
Full Report: Taking Peacebuilding To The Party
By Nancy Merritt
On July 21, 2013, the California Democratic Party (CDP) took a stand for peacebuilding. The CDP adopted a resolution in support of peacebuilding and endorsed federal legislation to create a cabinet-level U.S. Department of Peacebuilding to work toward domestic and international peacebuilding.
“By voting to support peacebuilding and creation of a cabinet-level U.S. Department of Peacebuilding, the CA Democratic Party said enough to violence. With this dual vote, the Party said there are other ways – we must learn and practice violence prevention and nonviolent conflict resolution. We must to learn to respect, honor and value each other. We must make peacebuilding a national priority – our lives, our children’s lives and our economy depend on it,” said Nancy Merritt, CA Peace Alliance, Northern CA State Coordinator.
When CA Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013 (DoP/HR808) on 02/25/13, she wrote to members of Congress, “It is past time to establish a Department of Peacebuilding to reduce suffering on a national and global scale while saving billions of dollars through violence reduction and increased economic productivity.”
For three plus years, a statewide team of CA Peace Alliance volunteer leaders shepherded the dual peacebuilding measures through the CDP maze of confusing rules, committees, and procedures. The CA Democratic Endorsement team (CA Dem Team or Team) includes Brian Gibbs (San Diego County), Maggi Koren (Sonoma County), Lily Marie (Nevada County), Nancy Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area), and Jerilyn Stapleton (Los Angeles County).
The Team worked long and hard to educate the CDP about the Department of Peacebuilding and the far-reaching concept of peacebuilding. With more than a little help from friends and supporters in the CDP and The Peace Alliance (TPA), and following adoption of strong peacebuilding language in 2012 CA Platform, the CDP passed dual resolution/ legislation peacebuilding measures at its statewide Executive Board (E-Board) meeting in Costa Mesa, CA. The resolution acknowledges that the U.S. spends 2.16 trillion dollars annually for violence containment in this country and internationally. The legislation calls for a cabinet-level DoP, with a Secretary of Peacebuilding, to study and effectuate proven and cost-effective peacebuilding measures.
“Like Franklin Roosevelt, like Barack Obama, CDP officials told us to make them support peacebuilding — and that’s just what we did. We took peacebuilding to the Party. Hard work, strategy, education, networking, coalition building and some luck resulted in the CDP’s dual peacebuilding endorsements. This involved not only blood, toil, sweat and tears, but also perseverance, learning, listening, connecting, alignment of the stars and real joy,” said Nancy Merritt.
Lily Marie, CA TPA, NE CA Regional Lead, often reminded the CA Dem Team, and anyone who would listen, that peacebuilding is not a sound bite, it is a systems message. It is about connecting the dots. And it is about reminding people of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: “It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
The back drop of the 07/13 E-Board meeting was very much the senseless slaying of Trayvon Martin, an African American teen who was shot in Florida early one evening in February 2012 as he walked back from a neighborhood store to his dad’s house. This event, and others, led to the CDP saying, “Enough to violence.”
I. The Long Arc of History
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Congresswoman Lee’s 2013 DoP legislation is part of a long history of trying to weave peacebuilding into the fabric of our culture and to incorporate it in our government. This historic effort started as early 1792, when an Office of Peace was proposed to counterbalance the then Department of War. George Washington said that his first wish was “to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”
The first legislation for a U.S. Department of Peace (DoP) was introduced in 1935, which, by 1969 and the Vietnam War era was followed by ninety additional bills. Exactly two months before the fall of the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001, then-Congressman Dennis Kucinich (OH) introduced in Congress Department of Peace legislation, which addressed the root causes of violence and, for the first time, called for a federal Department relating to both domestic and international violence prevention. Congressman Kucinich reintroduced such legislation in each Congress through 2011 – 2012.
II. Taking Peace to the Party
Taking peace to the Party has been a long and winding journey. During 2006 – 2007, CA Democrats Harold Fong (Sacramento) and Maggi Koren (Sonoma) separately submitted three DoP resolutions to the CDP Resolutions committee, which sent them to the Legislation committee, where the legislation requests died. “Even earlier than that, the Stonewall Democratic Club proposed a DoP resolution,” said Maggi Koren, CA TPA, Sonoma Lead.
“For me this has been a five year journey starting when I was a proxy delegate to the 2008 Convention and took HR 808 to the Women’s Caucus. So, I’m extremely grateful for the CA Democratic Endorsement Team,” said Jerilyn Stapleton, CA TPA, Southern CA State Coordinator. This accomplishment is a result of participation of this Team. “I’m amazed how a small group of thoughtful and well-organized people have changed the CDP world,” said Brian Gibbs, CA TPA, San Diego volunteer.
When the Team started its CDP journey, it submitted a DoP resolution to the Resolutions committee (Sacramento, 04/11). That committee referred the DoP request to the Legislation committee and there was a side trip to the Rules committee (Anaheim, 07/11). Meanwhile, the Team also worked through the Platform committee to add new language and strengthen existing peacebuilding language in the CDP 2012 Platform (Burlingame, 11/11 and San Diego, 02/12) … then back to the Legislation and Resolutions committees (Anaheim, 07/12), on to continue building support at the 11/12 E-Board meeting (Millbrae, 11/12), back to the Resolutions committee (Sacramento, 04/13), and on to the Legislation and Resolutions committees (Costa Mesa, 07/13). The Team also took the DoP message to the national Democratic Party convention/ People’s convention in North Carolina in 09/12.
What began as an effort by the CA Peace Alliance morphed into a CA TPA/ Democratic Party effort. Along the way, the CA TPA and members of the CDP built support among the Party’s 20 State Regions, 58 County Central Committees, approximately 20 CDP Caucuses and numerous official Democratic clubs. The Team and supporters attended local, county and regional meetings from Nevada City to Sacramento, Turlock, Sonoma, Marin, Concord, Martinez, San Francisco, San Leandro, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego and many other locations. Volunteers engaged in many, many conversations and e-mail exchanges. For more information on CA Peace Alliance volunteers and CDP supporters, see side bar “More Than a Little Help from Our Friends.”
III. The July 2013 Executive Board Meeting in Costa Mesa (07/19/13 to 07/21/13)
Going into the three-day CDP E-Board meeting:
• The “Resolution for Peacebuilding” had been approved by the CDP Resolutions Committee at the CDP State Convention on 04/11/13 and was on the General Session agenda for a Party vote on 07/21/13.
• The request for CDP endorsement of the DoP legislation was before the CDP Legislation Committee and came out of the federal legislation subcommittee listed as “opposed.” The Team faced an uphill battle. During every two-year legislation cycle, the CDP supports up to five pieces of federal legislation and up to twenty pieces of state legislation. CA Peace Alliance/ CDP volunteers lobbied before and at the July Executive Board meeting for DoP to be one of the Party’s five federal legislation priorities.
Before the Legislation committee meeting, the Team and supporters reached out to as many delegates and Legislation committee members as possible and spread the message of peacebuilding at the CA TPA booth, in the halls, in the hotel restaurant, at the caucus meetings. At the General Session of all delegates, the Team held up signs. CDP Party Chair John Burton called out from the podium, “What is that sign in the back? I can’t read it. Is it something I should know about?” Lily Marie, one of the sign holders, called back, “Support the United States Department of Peacebuilding.” Earlier in the day, Chair Burton said the U.S. DoP is a “hell of a thing.”
The message, as reflected in words written earlier by Kendra Mon, CA TPA, NW CA Regional Lead, was and is:
Violence and war are bleeding our communities and our nation dry – literally, economically, and spiritually. Right now Americans need new, more effective, methods of first aid and life support. Right now CA and the Democratic Party can begin to staunch these life-threatening wounds by championing true homeland security in the form of a procreative national institution dedicated to supporting peacebuilding. Trained peacebuilders will be a new form of first responders who help us all put out fires before they start, prevent violence before it begins, and help us be in right relationship with ourselves, each other and the planet.
Saundra Andrews, Senior Field Representative/ Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Lee, donned an “I-Support-HR808” sticker and talked with delegates.
V. Legislation Committee Preparation & Testimony
As the Legislation committee assembled, Stephanie Thomas, CA TPA, Congressional District 13 Lead, went in search of a missing DoP witness — African-American caucus chair Darren Parker — and pulled him out of a Party luncheon with CA Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
The Team distributed to supporters signs saying “No to Violence” and “Support Department of Peacebuilding,” provided informational packets to committee members, and signed up to testify. Volunteer Stephon Litwinczuk (Los Angeles) filmed the proceedings. Nancy Merritt took photographs (and, very importantly ceded back her testimony time to Jerilyn Stapleton).
CA TPA representatives Jerilyn Stapleton and Lily Marie, Saundra Andrews, and Darren Parker testified in support of DoP legislation. Each spoke about the epidemic of violence in our nation and world, about the compelling need for a culture of peace, about available solutions, about widespread CDP and national support, and about the urgent need for a DoP now.
VI. The Most Important Legislation Before the Committee
After the testimony, many members of the 25-person Legislation committee advocated for DoP legislation. “This is the most important bill under consideration by the committee … the purpose of a committee endorsement is to announce to the CA Democratic delegation that this is of utmost importance to the CDP,” said committee member David Sonneborne (Orange).
Committee member Susie Shannon (Los Angeles), said, “Forty-three city and other governmental counsels have endorsed this. Numerous organizations have endorsed, including Amnesty International, the Global AIDS Alliance, the National Organization for Women, a chapter of NAACP. This is really important particularly given where we are in the history of this country. We must start addressing these issues — domestic violence, bullying, how many children have to die in schools, how many children need to die like Trayvon Martin given the ‘stand your ground’ laws?”
Comparing establishment of a new DoP to the beginning of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Susie Shannon said that in the beginning the EPA had no teeth, it was de-funded by Richard Nixon, it was capped. “I think these things start slow, you make a commitment and you move forward.”
Other committee member comments include:
• At the subcommittee stage, “I was opposed. I have been on the fence about this – not about the bill itself, the bill is a great bill, but on whether this reaches the level of our top twenty-five bills … I have to say the testimony, especially from Barbara Lee’s office, was very persuasive … I will vote for it.” (Richard Matthews, Porter Ranch)
• “We have got to turn this [trend of violence] around …” (Carole Lutness, Valencia)
• There have been funding cuts for organizations that deal with domestic violence issues – HR808 would address these issues. (Bobbie Jean Anderson, Los Angeles)
• “HR808 talks about 85% [of the funding] being for domestic violence prevention, but I also want to talk about what’s happening with the 15% in international violence and how this country is perceived in one war after another. We need to make statement that we need Department of Peacebuilding now.” (Harpreet Sandhu, Richmond)
• “This bill was written before Trayvon Martin [was killed] and before some of other massacres we’ve seen in last few months. These massacres just remind us that the time is now for us to take a position on this … I know the legislative analyst has said this bill has a 1% chance of passing in this Congress – is that a reason for us to take no position? I don’t think so.” (Igor Tregub, Berkeley)
Committee Chair Barry Broad (Sacramento) said that although it did not appear the vote was going that way, he had some opposing reservations. The committee voted unanimously in favor of recommending to the General Assembly a ‘yes’ vote on DoP legislation. There were tears, cheers, hugs and sighs of relief. Then a hotel alarm went off and all were forced to evacuate.
VII. Final General Session (07/21/13) – YES!
The next day, the Team prepared for the final General Session by lining up speakers in case of a floor fight. The Team and supporters collectively crossed their fingers, held their breath, watched and waited. The “Resolution for Peacebuilding” passed without a problem. At last, Legislation Committee Chair Barry Broad rose to present his report and singled out one bill which he noted was very popular – the U.S. Department of Peacebuilding Act, saying, “Now, we’ll all have to be nice to each other. Forever.” The CDP delegates laughed, cheered and voted to endorse this legislation.
VIII. Making Peacebuilding A Party Value
During the progression through the CDP maze, the Team worked with the Party to make peacebuilding a strong part of the Party’s values by infusing the 2012 Platform with peace and peacebuilding ideals. In 2011 – 2012, the CA Dem Team successfully introduced peacebuilding language into multiple Platform planks.
Leading up to the dual resolution/DoP endorsements, the Team advocated that peacebuilding as a human value and a Democratic Party value. The preamble of the CDP 2012 platform provides that the Party will “promote peace, rule of law and human rights by instituting and funding time-tested and cost effective tools and strategies for peace which address the hate, vitriol and violent conflicts that are rampant in today’s society, which interfere with our security and prosperity, both at home and abroad.” The CA Dem Team proposed the bulk of this language.
Additionally, the CA Dem Team tied together the CDP and DoP legislation. New provisions to both the CDP Platform of 2012 and DoP 2013 include:
• provide for public education programs that promote tolerance and respect for diversity
• create school and community cultures where students and staff are free from bullying and harassment by implementing curricula in nonviolent conflict resolution education for teachers, students, parents, school community and community at large
• assist in re-entry by incarcerated individuals by including training in anger management, peacebuilding skills, life skills, education and job skills
• assist in creating strong & healthy families, including supporting mental health service, domestic violence prevention, gang prevention, anti-bulling programs, substance abuse prevention, and parenting skills
• provide restorative justice programs in the criminal justice system to bring together offenders, victims, and community members to repair harm through accountability and rehabilitation
IX. Ending The Cycle of Violence
On the night of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death on April 4,1968, Robert F. Kennedy spoke about the choice between bitterness, revenge, hatred and violence, “Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.”
Since 1968, when Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, over a million people have been killed with guns in the United States (bradycampaign.org). During the past century, our nation fielded soldiers in battle during 64 of those years, and 231 million people died in wars and conflict. “We say ENOUGH TO VIOLENCE.”
Each time this nation and the CDP put off dealing with violence, there follows a cascade of more violence – a Columbine high school massacre in Colorado, a Sandy Hook massacre of 5-and-6 year olds and their teachers in Connecticut, the killing of a young African American named Oscar Grant by a transit policeman on a subway platform in California, the beating almost to death of a young mother by her husband in South Carolina.
This time, as the CDP met in July 2013, the verdict had just been handed down exonerating a Florida neighborhood watch coordinator in the senseless death of African American teenager Trayvon Martin as he carried home from the local store a package of Skittles and iced tea.
“The CDP general assembly Saturday (07/20/13) opened with an invocation mentioning Trayvon Martin and a moment of silence led by African-American caucus Chair Darren Parker. Chairs of the Arab American, Asian Pacific Islander, Chicano Latino, Filipino American, and Native American caucuses stood behind him. The whole assembly rose to participate in the moment of silence. It was a very special moment,” said Jerilyn Stapleton. “That’s how we’ll make peace a reality – standing, working, walking together,” said Nancy Merritt.
X. Keepin’ On With a Culture of Peace
Peacebuilding is not for the faint of heart. Peacebuilding is work. It is drafting flyers, schlepping literature, endlessly overcoming misperception, rules, regulations, procedural twists and turns, hurdles and blockades. It is late-night letter writing, driving, flying, and enduring expensive and bad hotel food. It is working to be the peace. It is turning foes into friends (if not necessarily supporters). It is finding a way.
But peacebuilding has its rewards. In the process of securing the CDP endorsement, there were amazing conversations with a former Houston police chief, with the mother of a newly-elected CA assemblyperson, with CA teachers, with spiritual leaders, with farmers and with members of the Arab American caucus, the African-American caucus, the Children’s caucus, the Labor caucus, the Chicano Latino caucus, the Progressive caucus, the Rural caucus, the Women’s caucus, the Veteran’s caucus, to name a few.
This success with the CDP was about heart-felt connections with Party members and about the generosity of CA Peace Alliance volunteers – from contributions of time, money, lodging, “I Am a Fan of Peace” fans, DoP buttons, almonds and cupcakes for tabling volunteers. There were words of encouragement. And moral support. Every bit helped. It mattered that The Peace Alliance nationwide has spent years getting city and organization endorsements. Everything that came before the CDP endorsement mattered. Every bit made a difference.
This achievement now opens more possibilities and creates the necessity to keep on keepin’ on. Peace is every step. Peace is the journey.
On Behalf of the CA TPA Democratic Endorsement Team
Brian Gibbs, Maggi Koren, Lily Marie, Nancy Merritt, & Jerilyn Stapleton
RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF PEACEBUILDING
Whereas, violence in America cuts across age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, ethnicity, religion, and nationality, and negatively impacts the quality of life, erodes social values and standards of morality, deteriorates national morale, and creates a culture that systematically reproduces violence by the use of force and violence as means of defense and security domestically and internationally, and
Whereas, funding of domestic and international wars on crime, immigration, terrorism, and so on drains the U.S. and global economy and a recent report from the Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that in the U.S. violence containment costs around 15% of Gross Domestic Product each year and is the largest discrete industry in this country, costing around $2.16 trillion dollars annually, and
Whereas, the epidemic of violence in America must be contained through the implementation of nonviolent strategies to remedy the effects of gang violence, domestic abuse, sexual violence, and gun violence domestically; as well as to alleviate growing international tensions and help resolve civil wars and international conflicts the United States has pledged to support.
Therefore Be It Resolved, the California Democratic Party encourages state and national legislatures to support research by government agencies and NGOs to identify and address the root causes of violence in our society, and supports the implementation of education and training programs in nonviolent conflict resolution in public agencies and in public schools.
Be it Further Resolved, the California Democratic Party will support policy initiatives that will advance peacebuilding domestically and internationally on the local, state, and national level.
MORE THAN A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS
PARTIAL LIST OF TPA and CDP PEACEBUILDING PARTNERS
A. CA Peace Alliance Supporters
CA volunteers from throughout the state donated time, funds, materials, lodging, food, words of encouragement and moral support. During our three-year odyssey, at least the following CA TPA friends/ volunteers gave their time at CDP statewide meetings and/or donated funds or materials: Pete Beauregard (San Diego), Julie Beezley (Lake Balboa), George Berger (San Diego), Virginia Berger (San Diego), Phyllis Boyston (Napa), Marshall Burns (Los Angeles), Anita Coolidge (San Diego), Jeff Day (Walnut Creek), Suzanne Day (Walnut Creek), Marilee Eusebio (Davis), Ellen Faden (El Cerrito), Brian Gibbs (San Diego), Jack Heldt (Los Angeles), Virginia Hilker (Redondo Beach), Myra Jackson (Los Angeles), Daniel Kenney (Santa Clara), Judy Kimmel (Mill Valley), Nancy Kivette (San Francisco), Maggi Koren (Windsor) Phyllis Levin (Santa Cruz), Stephon Litwinczuk (Los Angeles), Cary Marie (Southern CA), Lily Marie (Rough-and-Ready), Renee Marie (Sacramento), Terry Mason (Los Angeles), Frank McClain (Marin), Amy McQuillan (San Diego), Roberta Medford (Glendale), Doug Merritt (El Cerrito), Nancy Merritt (El Cerrito), Kendra Mon (Petaluma), Lorrie Norby (Mill Valley), Northern CA Peace Alliance, Ann Pestalozzi (Murphys), Dr. Marc Pilisuk (Berkeley), Eileen Rea (San Diego), Josh Roebuck (Oakland), Pat Rusich (Hercules), San Diego Peace Alliance, Mark Schoen (Lake Balboa), Denise Schellink (Elk Grove), Annette Schmidt (Walnut Creek), Jerilyn Stapleton (Los Angeles), Louise Stiles (Carlsbad), Stephanie Thomas (Berkeley), Jeanine Unterleiher (Bay Area), Sandra Weaver (San Clemente) and more.
B. Endorsers of ‘Resolution to Support Peacebuilding’
CDP Regions (3, 4, 5, 8, 16, & 18); DCCs (Alameda, Madera, Marin, Nevada, Sacramento, Sutter, Yuba); CDP Officials such as CDP Secretary Daraka Larimore-Hall, Carolyn Fowler, Carol Lutness, Susie Shannon, Mike Thaller, Leah Herzberg, Marilyn Grunwald, Dorothy Reik, Mister Phillips, Igor Tregub, Jim Firth; CDP Clubs (Democratic Club of the High Desert, Lake County Stonewall Democratic Club, Los Angeles County Stonewall Democratic Club, Nevada County Democratic Women’s Club, Oakhurst Democratic Club, Turlock Democratic Club, and Yes We Can Democratic Club of Long Beach).
C. 2011 – 2013 CDP Endorsers of U.S Department of Peacebuilding Legislation
Hundreds of CDP delegates including CA Democratic Party Chair John Burton, State Senator Mark Leno and labor leader Delores Huerta signed petitions supporting this. Many DCCs (Calaveras, Contra Costa, Fresno, Lake, Marin, Nevada, Plumas, Solano, Sonoma) and clubs have supported, and continue to support this effort. A growing list of DoP 2013 endorsers includes Regions (3, 5, 6, 8, 18); DCCs (Contra Costa, El Dorado, Madera, Marin, Nevada, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yuba); CDP officials (Sue Gallagher); and clubs (Lake County Stonewall Democratic Club, Nevada County Democratic Women’s Club, Oakhurst Democratic Club, Turlock Democratic Club).
D. Special Thanks
Saundra Andrews, Karen Bernal, Jan Black, John Burton, Chuck Carpenter, CDP Standing Committee Members, Sue Gallagher, Jim Firth, Margie Joehnck, Hene Kelly, Royce Kelly, Barbara Lee, Dottie Le Mieux, Carol Lutness, Jamie McLaughlin, Darren Parker, Susan Rowe, Harpreet Sandhu, Susie Shannon, David Sonneborne, Igor Tregub, and many others helped make the CDP endorsements a reality.