An artist, a prison reform activist and a social studies teacher walk into a redwood forest…

By @ 08/19/14 in News, Peace Partners

(This is the first in an occasional series about the work of Oakland Peace Center partners so we can know each other’s work better.)

What do a doula, a professional musician, a carbon emissions warrior, a yoga teacher and a gun violence prevention advocate all have in common? They’re all under the shade of the redwoods building a shared vision of beloved community that makes use of all their gifts.

The Oakland Peace Center is in the capable hands of our facilities coordinator, Allen Foster, this week. I (Sandhya) am in the Santa Cruz mountains among the redwoods this week, as part of the YES! North America Changemakers Jam.

YES! and director Shilpa Jain have been partners of the OPC since the very first visioning meeting almost 3 years ago, and she has recognized since the beginning that all of us connected with the Oakland Peace Center could benefit from their big program, known as the YES! Jam.

Picture how musicians get together and jam – riffing off of each other, inspiring each other, energizing each other, helping each other make bigger and richer music than any of them could do alone. That’s the idea behind the Jam.

You could call it a retreat, but the participants are doing anything but retreating. Thirty or so people gather, deeply and differently gifted. The main thing they share in common is a shared commitment to effecting change in the community. And as we visioned the year 2036 together today, it was clear we see the future (and how to get there) very similarly, but we work on very different facets of it, in locations all across North America.


It’s been particularly poignant to be here in the wake of Michael Brown’s murder and the ensuing crackdown on free speech and right to assemble in order to nonviolently, publicly acknowledge injustice. A dozen of the people at the Jam gathered last night for a brief vigil to grieve the loss of Michael Brown and the too many Black men who are shot by police in the US. (#every28hours)

At least that was my plan. When I invited people to name what we were grieving, people named the fact that people have to live in fear of those who are there to serve and protect them and that some lives in America are worth more than others and that they cannot know for sure that their children will not face police brutality. But people also lifted up the devastation of our creeks and air and trees; and they lifted up the lack of love and compassion of humankind to one another; and they lifted up the breaking apart of relationships due to technology.

I will not lie – I came to grieve something very specific, and I needed to be with others as devastated and outraged as I, so at first I felt a little deflected. And then I realized that our broken relationships with the earth and with each other and with our ancestors and with one another’s ancestors are exactly what led to me grieving the fact that some lives matter more than others in my community and in this country. And the gift I have received is knowing a community of people working on those other facets of creating peace across this continent.

In the same way that the Oakland Peace Center seeks to bring together people with a shared vision* and very diverse ways of accomplishing that vision, YES! is creating community across such diversity towards a shared vision, on the continent-wide level.

I find myself dreaming of a YES! Jam made up of Oakland Peace Center partners so that we can have the gift of a whole week together in the redwoods dreaming of the Bay Area 2036 that we will build together. And I find myself profoundly grateful that YES! is an Oakland Peace Center partner with so much to offer all of us.


*All Oakland Peace Center partners have a shared vision of “creating access, opportunity and dignity for all people in Oakland and the Bay Area as the means of creating peace.”


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