David Hazen of Eugene, Oregon, attended PPI 2010. In this November 2011 report, David recounts his peacebuilding activities that have ensued since his PPI experience.
The Gestation and Birth of Eugene City of Peace
When I left the National Peace Academy’s Peacebuilding Peacelearning Intensive (PPI) in August of 2010, I felt that I and all the other participants had become “ordained” peacebuilders, that we were being sent forth on a sacred mission. For me, this is my profession, I have no other work. I’ve been inspired to redouble my efforts to form collaborations and heart-to-heart connections.
In November of 2010, I inaugurated a Peacebuilder Community group in Eugene, Oregon, to encourage skill-building for group sustainability, collaboration, and community-building. We found the most value out of sharing the personal histories of our activism. This group met monthly for one year and has now merged with the Eugene City of Peace group.
As the result of hearing an inspiring talk about micro-finance during Peace Week in September, I began two initiatives to intervene on multi-generational poverty. One was to form a pool of investors for peer-to-peer lending at the local level on the model of Kiva.org. After several meetings among several dozen interested people, we have encountered legal and regulatory barriers to the idea. However, the search for a way to increase local circulation of money into the hands of the poor continues.
The other initiative was to plant potatoes in the leaves that normally get piled in the street during the fall and hauled away by the city. I saw the potential for those in poverty to either earn an income or feed themselves. The idea caught on among several people associated with the Transition Town movement, and we formed a team to find an unused alley and do the planting. The potatoes were harvested recently and donated to Occupy Eugene. It wasn’t a huge harvest, but the project received media coverage and inspired the local Mission to start their own “Peace Garden.”
I began writing a book, Love Always Wins: Hope for Healing the Epidemic of Violence, based on my personal recovery from violence and domination. I am still editing this book, and the Occupy movement has spurred me onwards to finish it.
In March of 2011, I collaborated with other peace organizations in Eugene to inventory the more than 75 peace, justice, and sustainability organizations in our community. We sorted them into the seven areas of human security as defined by the United Nations. I created a database of all their contact information that was then useful in drawing out 20 organizations and over 200 people for a Peace Feast and Walk on the anniversary of the Iraq war. The mayor spoke, the Samba percussion band led the walk, and we all ate chili and cornbread prepared by a marvelous team of volunteers from Church Women United.
In April, we began building a relationship with the Human Rights Commission by setting up an information table at a human rights summit. I met with their staff people to propose that the city conduct a Peace Index survey to establish a baseline for measuring progress. Recently, I was invited to join the University of Oregon’s Center for Intercultural Dialogue to present the Charter for Compassion for endorsement by the City. Implementing the Charter would require a diverse panel of citizens and would qualify the city to be a City of Compassion as well as an International City of Peace.
In May, the team that had been advocating a US Department of Peace shifted its focus to Eugene City of Peace, and began a series of informal potluck dinners to build our social connection. In September, we collaborated with the local Sufi community to organize Dances of Universal Peace for the International Day of Peace.
In October 2011, I was overwhelmed by the presentation of two awards from two local organizations in recognition for my peacebuilding efforts. My greatest excitement, however, came on October 21 as I witnessed the birth of a beautiful child: a City of Peace. Here is what took place on that amazing day.
I had always been advocating for increasing civic conversation as the path to peace. In October, tensions were arising over an executive order issued by the Eugene city manager asking the police to enforce the no-camping ordinance. The Occupy organizers had set up a liaison with the police in advance, however, and the police refrained making any arrests.
The conversation between Occupy Eugene and the Eugene Police Department, mediated by my friends from Community Mediation Services, went so well that the lawyer for the Occupiers thought she was dreaming! One of the homeless youth was incredibly eloquent. We met for two hours. The conversation was open, honest, and from the heart. Nobody was ever upset. Everyone had a chance to speak. We all agreed to work in good faith towards win-win solutions that would be a model for other cities interested in positive community-police relations.
In this photo, taken on October 21, that’s Paul Simon on the left, Eugene police Lt. Sam Kamkar in the middle, and me on the right. Paul, who was the Oregon Student Peace Alliance Coordinator for several years, is now working closely with the Eugene Occupation and is committed to creating more inclusive community conversations. Lt. Kamkar was born in Iran and immigrated to the USA with his parents when he was just three years old. He is very supportive of the right to free speech, is the police liaison to the Occupy Eugene movement, and has a great sense of humor!
I felt this was a victory of the heart. I now have a vision for expanding this conversation city-wide and am in consultation with talented facilitators, a social media/nonviolent communication expert, and a resource person in empathy and compassion.