Report from the Field
New Jersey Peace Action’s Grassroots Activist Skills Building Day
–Jessica Camacho and Madelyn Hoffman, New Jersey Peace Action
On June 9th New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) held a grassroots activist skills-building day to make peace the issue this election year. More than 50 people attended the event in Montclair, and it was a great kick-off for our Peace Voter 2012 campaign!
National Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin’s keynote talk addressed this year’s elections and the issues Peace Action is focusing on nationally. Kevin later conducted a workshop about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges for Peace Action in 2012 in ending the war in Afghanistan and preventing a war against Iran. The workshop produced useful information for NJPA as we do our work for peace.
Other workshops were led by some of our members, special guests, and staff. Executive Director Madelyn Hoffman led a workshop about the state and national “Move the Money” campaign and ending the war in Afghanistan. Peace Voter Coordinator Jess Camacho led a workshop about where New Jersey’s elected officials and candidates for public office stand on issues of war and peace. Jess also explained our candidate questionnaire and distributed copies of the two Voter Guides she produced in time to inform voters in two June 5th primary races. (to view copies of our Voter Guides, please visit New Jersey Peace Action)
Ali Naquvi gave a presentation about the highly controversial NYPD secret surveillance of Muslims and how members of NJPA could be supportive of the efforts to stand up for civil liberties. Larry Hamm and Ingrid Hill from People’s Organization for Progress (POP) discussed POP’s on-going 381 days of protest for Jobs, Peace, Equality and Justice and gained support for the event taking place on the 381st day – July 11, 2012. Michelle Bobrow from the League of Women Voters spoke about Congressional redistricting in New Jersey and the issues of voting machines and voter rights. Terri Suess, long-time NJPA member, conducted a very popular workshop about how to speak with people you disagree with politically. Her workshop was so informative that some wished it would have lasted longer. And Paul Surovell, of South Mountain Peace Action, held a well-attended and worthwhile workshop on how to lobby effectively.
NJPA and Occupy Wayne member Don Leich began the final plenary by showing us how to do a “human mic”. The “human mic” started with the Occupy Wall Street movement and helps get around not having a sound permit. A speaker says something and those within the sound of the speaker’s voice repeat it. This is continued until everyone gathered has heard what is being said.
Lastly, Madelyn Hoffman and Virginia Ahearn conducted the final plenary session, in which all the attendees had the chance to voice their opinions of the event and express their ideas going forward. Many people wanted us to do another event similar to this later this year. Everyone mentioned how much they had learned!
When the plenary session concluded we asked people to sign up to volunteer with NJPA. The Peace Voter campaign needs people to table, to march in the July 4th parade, to lobby and to bird-dog candidates, and to produce and distribute Voter Guides. We also had some members volunteer to help in the office, join NJPA committees and help us to reach out to youth. We were very pleased with the response, and with the entire day, as we were building not only the skills of our members, but building community!
To see the day’s program and NJPA’s Voter Guides, please visit New Jersey Peace Action.