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No community, no peace
The Oakland Peace Center is proud to be part of Throw Down for the Town this year, for several reasons (including our huge respect for the Ella Baker Center), but the main one is this: The Oakland Peace Center is a collective of over 30 different non-profit organizations dedicated to peace and justice by creating access, opportunity and dignity for all in Oakland and the Bay Area. And those things cannot happen without community. In the words of Grace Lee Boggs and the Neighborhood Peace Pledge, we get that we should be “restoring the neighbor back in the hood.” At the OPC, this shows up in multiple ways, but always towards the same end.
The same weekend as Throw Down for the Town, the Oakland Peace Center is playing host to a regional conference for “Move to Amend.” Move to Amend seeks to overturn the supreme court decision that corporations are people with the right to pour money into political campaigns. MTA will spend all of Saturday afternoon strategizing how to make sure this movement is grounded in racial justice as a core value, so that in addition to corporations not being people, all people really are given equal voice.
Throughout the year, the OPC hosts programs on young women’s empowerment, on building relationships between US-born people and immigrants, on creating alternative economies through “gift circles” (http://www.connectionaction.org/) and efforts to end violence in the streets. One of our new projects, in relationship with several food justice organizations, is a food justice garden. This will be the major project for volunteers at Throw Down for the Town: working on building up the food justice garden, possibly expanding it to include an orchard (to provide more food and reduce erosion), and to get rid of some graffiti around the property in preparation for a peace mural.
These projects can seem so different, but at their heart, they connect to one mission—the same mission as Throw Down for the Town and the Ella Baker Center—restoring the neighbor back to the hood. It is about interdependence and interconnectedness. Without those things, no amendments will save us, no number of peace programs will pacify us, and no food will fill us. July 28 is about being one community of brothers and sisters strengthening Oakland. And at the Oakland Peace Center and our partner organizations, EVERY day is a chance to throw down for the town.
 One of our Oakland Peace Center partners is serving as our liaison at Detroit Summer and just reported back that Grace Lee Boggs and our friends running Detroit Summer invite us into this pledge:
I pledge allegiance to do my part in restoring the neighbor back to the hood.
I pledge to develop myself, my family & my household to the greatest extent possible of being a shining example of being a husband, father, son, brotha, wife, mother, daughter & sister in my neighborhood.
I will learn all that I can in order to give my best to improve the quality of my neighborhood.
I will work diligently to honor my family in my neighborhood with good deeds, & treat my neighbors as my extended family.
I will keep myself mentally sound, spiritually grounded & physically fit; building a strong body, mind & spirit that will exemplify positivity & productivity in my neighborhood.
I will unselfishly share my time, knowledge, resources & wisdom with my neighbors (young & old) in order to build & maintain a healthy neighborhood.
I will do my part to keep my neighborhood clean & safe.
I will discipline myself to direct my energies thoughtfully & constructively to maintain peace, harmony & love in my neighborhood.
I will train myself to never hurt or allow anyone the harm someone in my neighborhood for an injustice or through negative behaviors of stealing, gun violence, verbal abuse, police brutality, selling drugs, rape, or any other social ill that works to destroy my neighborhood.
This is my pledge to do my part by being a caring neighbor in my neighborhood by working to keep my neighborhood a peace zone instead of a war zone.
I’m writing from a global peace conference hosted at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. There are some exceptional speakers (and you can find the presentations online at summerofpeace.net), but I find myself particularly moved by the connection of great local peacemakers in the foyer: the director of SAVE (Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere) meeting the woman who did peace circles in rec centers all over Oakland the summer of the Mesehrle verdict. A woman who runs a women’s interfaith social services network learning about an interfaith worker justice group.