The Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center was founded in 1969 by Andy Baltzo and Arne Westerback. It was first housed in a tiny residence on Sharpe Avenue in Walnut Creek, simply known as the “Peace Center.” Initially started for the purpose of counseling draft resisters in the escalating war in Indochina, the Center quickly developed into a focal point in the community where East Bay residents found a voice against the war. Programs included counseling on avoiding the draft, venues for educational programs and forums/lectures concentrating on the goal of ending the war. A newsletter was developed and the first “Peace Gazette” was published that year and continues today.
Although the troops eventually returned from Indochina, the members recognized that the quest for peace and justice never ends. The Center turned its focus to issues of nuclear arms reduction and disarmament. Protests were directed against nuclear weapons at the local level, with attention aimed towards stopping weapons development at Livermore Labs and the Concord Naval Weapons Station. The frightening reality of having ammunition trains pass through the East Bay was successfully brought to the attention of the local community.
Over the decades, members of the Center worked tirelessly towards changing U.S. war policies abroad. Protests were organized against entanglement in El Salvador, the bombing of Bosnia, the Persian Gulf War, and the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.
The Center moved its offices several times over the years, always maintaining a close connection to the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, where it rented office space (through 2013). Although the physical office is no longer at that location, it continues to have a mailing address and holds most of its events there. Through those years it benefitted from the executive directorships of Andy Baltzo, Gary Dobson, Chuck Goodmacher, Carol “Bhavia” Wagner, Jeanelyse Doran, Mary Alice O’Connor, Crystallee Crain and its current director, Margli Auclair.
Recently, the Center has been focusing on education and positively influencing the hearts and minds of the youth in our community. Educational programs addressing peace and justice have been developed for children of all ages, pre-school through high-school. Students, parents and teachers have access to programs such as the Dennis Thomas Art and Writing Challenge for Middle and High School students and Youth and the Military, a counseling service for young people on national service alternatives to the military. We organize an annual conference for teachers entitled Creating a Peaceful School to deal with bullying and violence prevention in all its forms. The Center has developed a dedicated website with relevant educational materials, making it even more useful to the public. (www.creatingpeacefulschools.weebly.com)
The Center remains dedicated to providing the larger community with a voice for Peace and Social Justice. We continue to focus on peace-building and preventive measures to conflict while keeping attention on the current wars in the Middle East and past wars with visible war memorials such as the Crosses of Lafayette. We seek to bring awareness to the relationship between climate change and conflict over dwindling resources and destabilization. The recent financial crisis prompted the Center to address the problems resulting from increasing poverty in our local community. One of our newest advocacy projects is to support efforts to obtain the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
Through the years the Center has benefitted the larger community through its inspirational classes in non-violence. Through the years these have included a monthly Alternatives to Violence class. We have held monthly discussion groups, Conversations that Matter, on various topics of interest, most recently the legacy of slavery. We have had nationally known speakers, educational forums and film series addressing issues of the budget and spending, prison reform, health care reform and the environment. Each tax season, the Center distributes information on federal spending on defense and the military through leafleting to the public.
We seek to build a community within which we can all make a difference.