Reflections on the Global Issues-Peace Studies (GIPS) Trip, November 2014

Lisa Putkey, Peace Studies Teacher
Monday, December 1, 2014

“All Oppression is Connected” –Staceyann Chin

One of the most inspirational and exciting experiences for me all semester was co-organizing and co-facilitating the Global Issues and Peace Studies (GIPS) trip.  Our goal in designing the trip was to give our students the opportunity to see models of activism and social change in action in order to empower them to see themselves as agents of change.  We have been studying themes of peace, violence, and systemic oppression and wanted to present students with examples in the Bay Area of ordinary people making extraordinary efforts to challenge the status-quo and create just communities.  Being from the Bay Area, I was excited to collaborate with many friends and organizations whose work I admire and respect. 

The theme of our trip this fall was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1967 Beyond Vietnam speech in which he states:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered”

We wanted to highlight the intersectionality of systemic oppression and violence as it manifests through the giant triplets of racism, capitalism, and militarism.  In class this semester we have been working with students to not only develop a critical consciousness of these intersecting oppressions in their daily lives but to envision, discuss, and act upon the change they want to see in the world.  From community murals and gardens to meditation circles to FOIA requests to nonviolent protest to creating alternative institutions, we wanted to provoke thoughts on different organizing styles and challenge students to examine which models of change resonate most with their own passions and communities.  Below you will find the schedule of activities from the week and a reflection piece by one of our students, Flannery Raabe. 

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Morning

- Tri Valley CAREs presentation & perimeter tour of nuclear weapons lab

- Oscar Grant mural at Fruitvale Station

-Visit Canticle Farm

- Generation Waking Up workshop

-Political activism talk at Oakland City Hall

-AFSC presentation on the prison industry

Afternoon

-LLNL presentation at Discovery Center with weapons researcher

-Lunch and mural tour with 67 Sueños

-AORTA Solidarity Economics workshop

-Iraq Vets Against the War presentation

-Beehive Collective workshop/exhibition

Evening

-Watch Fruitvale Station

 

- Berkeley Poetry Slam

-Open house dinner

-East Point Peace Academy Nonviolence training & exchange w/ Youth Spirit Artworks

 

The GIPS trip was inspiring and educational. I was constantly considering the theme of our trip, the giant triplets of militarism, capitalism, and racism, and the idea that fear could be the root of all of them. One of the coolest parts of the trip, for me, was the nuclear and anti-nuclear places because they combined both environmental issues and human issues. On Monday, we talked to a group called Tri-Valley CAREs, an anti-nuclear community watchdog. Marylia Kelley, one of the two staff that the organization has, talked to us about the work her organization has done and about the work done in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She told us that as part of Tri-Valley CAREs, she has helped workers from Lawrence Livermore get compensation for injuries from a variety of things, especially exposure to radiation. Marylia’s organization helps provide the community an alternative to the militaristic nuclear lab through their work to expose the negative effects of the lab and provide paths of resistance. What really struck me about this organization was their willingness to work with the community, rather than hiding things from the community like the lab seemed to do. The collaboration seemed to be an important tool in community organizing.

After talking to Marylia, we talked to a few people who have spent almost 30 years working as part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Our group asked questions that were perhaps a little too attacking, but we were straight to the point and asked what we wanted to know. However, she seemed to evade most of our questions. Her answers were vague, and it seemed like she was often just repeating the question. We asked follow up questions in some cases to try to get a clearer answer, but she dodged even those. Overall, I left the lab feeling disappointed and suspicious of what she wasn’t saying when she avoided our questions. Maybe she just didn’t know the answers, but even that would cause me to worry a little bit. It’s also possible that she wasn’t allowed to disclose the answers and was trying to appease us best she could, but that would mean there is something to hide. Either way, the way the talk went made me suspicious, or at least uncomfortable. I’m wondering now how I would have felt if we had gone to the lab first and to Tri-Valley CAREs second, but, honestly, I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference.

When we were visiting the lab, I felt like militarism and capitalism definitely influenced the work they do. Without the militaristic society we live in, we wouldn’t need the lab to keep the nuclear weapons we have fully functional. The tour guide admitted to being motivated by fear and it seemed to me that the whole lab’s militaristic ideology is motivated by fear and capitalistic values.  A lot of the values of capitalism we talked about in the AORTA workshop on Wednesday were present in the work of the lab. They seemed more interested in self preservation than things that are beneficial to the whole.

On Monday night, we watched the movie Fruitvale Station. This movie documented the last day of Oscar Grant’s life. Oscar was a young, black male living in Oakland, California. He had a girlfriend and they wereraising a daughter together. On the night he was murdered, he was taking the BART subway home from a New Year’s celebration. He was stopped by the police and ended up being shot. The inherent racism in our police system was clearly at play here and after hearing so much about police brutality in class and in the news, it was powerful to see a real story of the affects of racism in our police system. In addition, it seems to me that the “security” of the community is similar to the “security” of the nation through nuclear weapons — motivated by fear. Both nuclear weapons use and Oscar Grant’s murder were horrendous side effects of fear.        

Reflection by Flannery Raabe
Photos by Gray Horwitz

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