Toilet Paper Reparations and Peace
by OPC intern Rachel Thomson
It may sound like the phrase toilet reparations should be the name of the Oakland Peace Center’s headliner band, who further the cause of peace with the mighty power of rock and roll. Instead it came out of a conversation at the all-partner event held on January 10th.
During this time, OPC partner organizations who work with everything from art to the environment, from kids to the homeless, organizations of all kinds of economic levels and organizational structures, got the chance to come into the same circle to talk about the work we all do and what it means to be in this together.
At the heart of the Oakland Peace Center is the desire to bring different organizations together around common ground. It was this core value of community that made the gathering of 17 different people from 14 different partner organizations so special and affirming. During listening sessions over the summer, many partners expressed the idea, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get together and really get the chance to learn who we’ve gotten into bed with” (always smart). It’s easier to collaborate and organize with other organizations when you know that they exist, and building relationships with the people with whom you might collaborate smooths that process immensely.
The important parts of the event came after the initial introductions when everyone got the chance to share stories from their organizations, network with each other, and discuss what the vision and space of the Oakland Peace Center should be. In a world where “if you’re not for us then you’re against us,” it was both refreshing and inspiring to see organizations from different worlds sit in the same circle and articulate about how their groups are, each in their own way, fighting the good fight.
OPC partners do these types of discussions differently than most corporations or centers. Many decisions of the world are made by people who care about the bottom line of business and power at the expense of the common people. The opposite is true for those that gathered on the 10th, each doing their best to make sure that a document they are affiliated with is something that lifts up regular folks at the expense of the bottom line and power. For example, in case you were wondering about “toilet paper reparations,” we spent some time talking about how to address the theft of toilet paper from the bathrooms. Some of our partners pointed out that if toilet paper is being stolen from the building, part of our evaluation is how this affects our budget, but part of it is being aware of the economic violence that means some people have to hustle to feed themselves…should our collective include some “toilet paper reparations” in our budget? We didn’t reach absolute consensus, but we began a conversation about paying attention to systems and not just individuals.
Building relationships that help us be our best collective self is what the Oakland Peace Center is about, and the beginning of these relationships and the interplay between them is what made this event worthwhile.