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Together we can create peace, justice and equality for everyone in our community!
September 22, 2016
written by Virginia White, OPC intern
Decades after suffering a stroke at the young age of 24, Ms. Susan stood in front of the crowd attending the International Day of Peace Celebration co-sponsored by the Oakland Peace Center and St. Mary’s Center. Years ago, doctors told her that she would never walk again, yet today she walked right up to the podium unassisted.
“I didn’t listen to those doctors,” she proclaimed triumphantly; “I knew God has the final word in our stories!” The crowd roared.
Ms. Susan recalled how her mother nursed her back to health, rubbing her legs, providing her encouragement and unyielding love. And as she remembered her mother’s final message to her—how proud she was of her—the storyteller choked up a little.
Much violence results from our inability to recognize our shared humanity. When this is the case, listening to someone’s story becomes a radical act.
Community members from a youth empowerment organization, a Filipino rights advocacy group, and local nonprofits gathered with homeless senior citizens at St. Mary’s Center that morning (Thursday September 22) to do just that: to listen. At this peace day celebration, stories took center stage amid a diverse offering of song, spoken word, guided meditation, even dance.
Participants heard a Latina octogenarian’s memories of growing up in a segregated neighborhood, and the influence of her grandfather had on her as he instilled in her a sense of dignity and self-love. In a world torn by racism, she found a sense of self-worth.
Part of the story of peace in Oakland is about everyone having access to shelter, food and fair paid work. (Peace begins when the hungry are fed, as the saying goes.) During the gathering, organizers talked about ballot initiatives in November. The very proposals lifted up (to bring more beloved family back from prisons and to give them more opportunities at home, to provide rental justice and funding for affordable housing) were part of the story of how people are striving to create peace. The St. Mary’s seniors knew the names and letters of every initiative discussed, a powerful illustration of the active side of peace-making.
The morning ended with the group holding hands to sing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The refrain of the song declares, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!” Offering everyone present a moving and empowering reminder of the role we all have in creating the peaceful world we seek and often it begins by listening to the person in front of us.
 pseudonym used
If you can get away from work Thursday, September 22 from 10-11:30 am, join us for a powerful event at St. Mary’s Center (which provides community, services, and organizing opportunities for homeless seniors who are also community leaders), 925 Brockhurst St., Oakland.
Both St. Mary’s and the Oakland Peace Center know that “peace begins when the hungry are fed,” and that “peace is not an absence of conflict; peace is the presence of justice.” This event, led by the Council of Elders at St. Mary’s as well as OPC partners, will give you that jolt of inspiration to do the hard work of peace in which you’re already engaged. We hope to see you there. And please help spread the news!
Joining us this September through mid-June are two dynamic young adults eager to engage in the work of justice and peace!
Virginia White will join the Oakland Peace Center as a Seminarian Intern this month, through June 2017. Virginia is currently a Master of Divinity Student and Disciples Divinity House Scholar at the University of Chicago Divinity School. A native of Austin, Texas, she is a 2013 graduate of Rice University, where she majored in Sociology and History, with a focus on poverty, gender and race studies. New to the work of community organizing, she is passionate about bringing people into shared conversation and action to create more just, peaceful and flourishing communities. Previously she worked as a researcher in the Rice University Religion and Public Life Program, focusing on projects examining the intersections between religion, science, education and social justice. Last year, she served as pastoral intern at Root and Branch Church, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) “dinner church” plant in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. She is thrilled to get to know Oakland and learn all the she can from the Bay Area and the OPC partners this year. Welcome her atvirginia@oaklandpeacecenter.
Caleb Greydanus recently graduated from the University of Oregon, Eugene, with a major in history. He was raised in a small Oregon town. He loves hiking and camping, is a political junkie, and brings a major commitment to addressing injustice in the United States and beyond. He will spend this year living in intentional community with three other young adults serving at social service/justice sites (including two OPC partner organizations!) through the National Benevolent Association’s XPLOR program. Welcome him at firstname.lastname@example.org!