Speakers Series and Forums
The Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center continues to engage and inspire the community with speakers and forums on current topics of peace, justice and the environment.
We address local, state and national issues. A sample of what was offered during the course of this past year:
- World Peace Campaign – John O’Connell;
- Why Iran? Conversation with Maziar Behrooz and Michael Veiluva;
- Drone Warfare – Medea Benjamin;
- Health Care Discussion – Len Saputo, M.D.;
- Canadian Tar Sands Mining – Garth Lenz, photo-journalist;
- Michael Eisenscher – U.S. Labor Against the War;
- Gathering at the Table – Author presentation and discussion on racism – Tom De Wolf and Sharon Morgan;
- Teen Conflict Resolution – Author presentation and discussion with Jane Elise Sells;
- Trust in Education (update on Afghanistan school-building project) – Budd MacKenzie;
- Move to Amend – an Evening with David Cobb
- Beyond Nuclear Power – Jerry B. Brown, Ph.D.
- Prosperity in the Face of Climate Change – Will Travis
- Why we need to create a Public Bank of California – Ellen H. Brown and Jamie Brown
The Dennis Thomas Art and Writing Challenge
Since 1998, the Peace & Justice Center has challenged community high school and middle schools to address various topics related to peace and justice in artwork, essay, creative writing and video. This program was conceived and organized by the late Dennis Thomas, a man of peace for whom we have now named the event. Winning entries receive a cash prize and recognition at a banquet and in the media. Last May, 291 students from 45 local high schools and middle schools addressed the following issue: “The Occupy Movement is raising concerns about social inequality in our country. From your perspective, are there improvements you would make and inequalities you would end within your school, community and/or nation that would help you, your family or others?” Both teachers and students commented on the value of this program to stimulate classroom discussion. In the past a calendar of the winning entries was produced and distributed by the Peace Center as a vehicle to fundraise and promote its work. The Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Trust Foundation provided a grant to assist in the production of the calendar. In 2013 we received submissions from over 540 students. Over 100 were able to attend the awards dinner and lend their encouragement to the students. The topic… describing a situation when you forgave or were forgiving and working together for reconciliation. Funding for this annual event is made possible by the George Miller Youth Fund and many other generous benefactors. The writings and artwork are available for viewing on our new dedicated education website: http://creatingpeacefulschools.weebly.com
Creating Peaceful Schools Conference
This conference was first proposed by Center member Ian Harris, a recently-retired professor of Education Policy and Community Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Harris had been the director of Peace Studies at the University and led a successful program in the City of Milwaukee addressing adolescent violence and bullying in the schools. Harris teamed up with our Center’s former Executive Director, Mary Alice O’Connor, who has always had a passion to address these issues. She knew of members in the local community who were committed to the teaching of peace in the schools.
A committee was formed, a program was developed and presenters were arranged. The first all-day conference was held at Acalanes High School in February of 2012 before a group of nearly 100 educators from throughout Contra Costa County. Dr. Harris gave the keynote address on responses to school violence. Congressman George Miller attended the event and gave an impassioned speech, encouraging the attendees and committee members to continue with their work on the program. The responses to the conference were only positive. The resulting enthusiasm led the group to immediately begin planning for a second conference, expanding it to include presenters who could address the concerns of educators of younger children as well as middle and high school age students.
On February 2, 2013, 130 teachers, administrators and presenters from all over Contra Costa County schools met at the beautiful Seven Hills School campus in Walnut Creek for the second conference. The all-day conference provided topnotch speakers and interactive workshops to teach educators tools for enhancing personal peace in the classroom, for increasing communication and understanding between students, for countering incidents and the effects of bullying and for empowering faculty, administrators and students with techniques of conflict resolution and nonviolence training. A highly regarded expert in the field of restorative justice, Professor Ron Claassen of Fresno Pacific University, was the keynote speaker and provided the focus. An informative newspaper article from the Contra Costa Times covering the event is available here: http://www.contracostatimes.com/weird-news/ci_22533302/walnut-creek-conference-all-students-teachers-administrators-must.
We created a dedicated education website (http://creatingpeacefulschools.weebly.com) to facilitate communication and involvement with teachers and administrators throughout the County. The website expands our mission as a resource and forum on this topic. Buoyed by many rave reviews, (“So motivating! Great language, theory and tools. I feel excited to bring my knowledge into my management on Monday.” –Laura Miller), our education committee moved quickly to work on subsequent conferences. Check the website for current information.