This site is no longer active…

29 04 2015

Thank you for your interest in the Peace Development Fund. We are excited to announce the launch of our new website and encourage you to take a look! This site is no longer active, please visit peacedevelopmentfund.org.





I Want My Country Back

23 08 2012

The United Nations has undertaken a formal study of the Doctrine of Discovery, that which “authorized” and made acceptable the taking of indigenous lives and lands throughout the western hemisphere and around the world. This was “because” the indigenous (original) people were not fully human, and certainly not Christian. There has been a white (European) supremacy presumption in the U.S. going all the way back to before the founding fathers.

A white man enters a place of worship, the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) in Wisconsin, to shoot ten people, six to death. Could this have anything to do with power/powerlessness in the context of the ravages of the “free enterprise” system? Or with U.S. history, slavery or racial profiling? It may be one strand of our cultural DNA.

At PDF, looking at this brilliant blind spot, we understand that developing peace means understanding history, coming to terms with it, building new systems, re-programming ourselves, regardless of cultural identity, to build a peaceful presence in the world.

May the community of Oak Creek heal in peace!

Image





2011 in review

5 01 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.





Time for Another Great March?

20 10 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement spreading across the country reminds us of other movements when ordinary people—like the “diverse bunch” who organized to create a non-violent focus for positive change—embarked on the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament from California to Washington, DC. In 1986, the Peace Development Fund supported the marchers who, despite loose organization and trying circumstances, stood up to say “enough” to war and make their voices heard. The Great Peace March nearly fell apart as it moved from the west coast eastward, and there are certainly a few lessons to learn from this by Occupy Wall Street. But like Occupy Wall Street, the Great Peace March gathered momentum. Now Occupy Wall Street is changing the terms of the public debate, from despair that the financial world is stacked against Main Street to active concern about local jobs, education and the environment. Just as the Great Peace March entered people’s collective consciousness as they marched forward, Occupy Wall Street has the potential to mobilize thousands demanding jobs for all and civil rights. Perhaps it’s time for another great march.

from Peace Developments, Fall 1986

“The Great Peace March”

“Sure, we’re a diverse bunch,” says Larry Heiss, camp doctor for the Great Peace March. “We’ve got kids and septuagenarians, professional people and counter-culture youth, straight and gay, the angry and the serene, the ministers and agnostics, politically left and politically right, people form 50 states and eleven countries. But we’ve got one important thing in common: we are all committed to global nuclear disarmament.

As one of the core group that has been on the 3,200-mile peace walk across the U.S.A. since its start, Larry has seen the whole panorama: from the shaky send-off in Los Angeles on the first of March, through the breakdown of the original ProPeace organization two weeks later, leaving 1,200 walkers stranded on the edge of the Mojave Desert; through a determined but wrenching struggled to reorganized, raise money, and keep going; across deserts and mountains and plains to Omaha at an incredible 20 to 25 miles a day in order to catch up to the original schedule.

Together they’ve walked, despite blisters and sunburn, through desert sizzle and mountain frost, through hail and thunderstorms, through the fallout area downwind of the Nevada Nuclear test Site at the time of the Mighty Oaks test, past some of the nuclear facilities and military installations that bristle across our West. There was a high moment of celebration as they crossed the Continental Divide, with jokes that from now on it would “all be downhill.”

The marchers had faced staggering problems in their forming their new organization. All their equipment, including support vehicles, had been repossessed. They wouldn’t be allowed to march without at least portable toilets (which the Peace Development Fund was instrumental in getting for them). Everything has to be started again from scratch, and by a group with no experience.

But there were people like a man and his daughter from Sydney, Australia, who had raised money in their community in order to get to Los Angeles and join the march. As Phyllis Rodin, another marcher, said, “no way could we tell people like that ‘It’s folded. It’s over. Go home.’”

“We were halted in our tracks for three weeks in Barstow, California,” related Phyllis. “But it was an important three weeks. We moved from a green, helpless group of strangers, into a cohesive, fired-up determined community.”

In order to get the march back on the road, the marchers began to scavenge and resuscitate ancient junkyard trucks. Soldiers (in civilian clothes) from nearby military bases turned up to help with that thankless job. In gratitude for the outpouring of help from Barstow, the marchers painted the town’s church inferiors.

A newly-formed advance team had to start contacting peace groups and town officials in the areas ahead, to arrange for camp sites, permits, water, waste disposal, peace rallies, and speaking engagements. It helped when town officials learned that the marchers were cleaning up the roadsides as they walked.

Omaha seemed like a turning point. There, they were back on schedule and could slow their pace to a mere 15 miles a day. There they were halfway to their final goal, Washington, DC.

“We don’t feel we’ll be stranded again,” Larry says with confidence in spite or reporting that their income at present is less than their outgo.” We know now that nothing can stop us from getting to Washington. We know the support is out there, and we’re confident the money will come in when people realize we need it.”

Expenses are $7 a day per marcher – $4,000 a day total – for food, insurance, payments on the support vehicles, campsite permits, publicity, gas. The high cost of marching has sometimes meant turning down people who would like to join in. In spite of that, the number had grown from 500 to 650 by Omaha, with hopes that as the new fundraising canvas bring in additional support, the group can also expand. By the time the group gets to New York City, in mid-October, the march almost certainly will be considerably larger. And optimism runs high when they talk about arriving in Washington, DC for a mid-November final rally.

Within the march there are, of course, differences of opinion. “Peace begins with ourselves,” as Larry Heiss says, “and it’s not always an easy lesson.”

But despite the occasional friction, there’s a lot of camaraderie, creativity, energy, and humor. Musicians, comics, and clowns have teamed up within the marching community to keep spirits high.

There is also support, both moral and financial, from “outside.” The marchers are visited by national celebrities, such as Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Hill Street’s Betty Thomas, and Congresswoman Pat Schroeder of Colorado. There are rallies and house parties, and marchers-for-a-day who join them in every city.

It’s an adventure for everyone, perhaps especially for the 40 children on the march, some of whom have become experienced speakers already. From one-year-old Alexa to 8-year-old Franklin Folsom, everyone counts.

“Something is very different about this march,” to quote marcher Tom Atlee. “I don’t’ know why so many cars honk and give us a peace sign; why so many mothers cry as we pass; why fundamentalist veterans stop by the road to bless us; why old women with American flags hanging over their doors thank us for marching for them. Maybe it’s because 95 percent of Americans really want peace, and that desire is beginning to ache inside. If they had a way to be peaceful AND patriotic AND honestly hopeful, they’d grab it in an instant …

“Hope grows here like moss on a pine. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m witnessing a metaphorical dawn; that the darkness is giving way; that in the next year, perhaps in the next few months or days, I will see the edge of the sun and know that we, as a planet, have made it.”





Face Time

18 08 2011

“We are more than just a grantmaker,” says PDF Executive Director Paul Haible. “We are partners in the peace and social justice movement.”

From the Peace Development Fund’s earliest days, PDF has visited with and advised grantees, encouraged networks such as our current initiative, BASE (Building Action for Sustainable Environments), and above all, LISTENED.

1985 Meg Gage and Linda Stout

Our model of philanthropy involves direct funding, advocacy where appropriate, and partnerships built around mutual respect, sharing of resources, and transparency of planning and decision-making. This article from 1985 highlights the person-to-person work that, over three decades, has made PDF unique among foundations.

from Peace Developments, Fall 1985

Learning Person-to-Person

“Visiting peace groups on site, in the communities where they work and live, sends valuable information both ways,” said Meg Gage, the Peace Development Fund’s executive director. “It gives us the chance to learn more about grassroots groups and the current state of the country’s peace movement.

“And in these visits the groups get to see us as people, to realize we are not Big Daddy Peacebucks. Though we have been a source of funds for hundreds of peace organizations, we are also engaged and active people much like themselves,” Meg added.

Making sure that our donor’s money is used responsibly and effectively is a high priority for the Peace Development Fund and [its sister organization] the Pacific Peace Fund (PPF). We have developed many ways to encourage effective use of our grants, such as researching, monitoring and consulting by mail and phone. But good as these long-distance methods are, we also try to observe conditions directly for ourselves through site visits.

Kim Klein, Exchange Project

Being in an organization’s actual working space can tell an astute visitor nearly as much as meeting the people themselves. The Bucks Alliance for Nuclear Disarmament (BAND), outside Philadelphia, has created a peace center consciously designed to reach a wide spectrum of people. Some groups work in places bristling with militant posters. By contract, BAND’s office is an open, pleasant, business-like environment where anyone would feel at home.

“As for BAND’s productivity,” says Paul Aicher, a PDF board member who visited the group with Meg Gage, “the number of activities listed on a wall chart and the number of people doing them speak volumes.”

PDF’s contact with one important Freeze organization in New York had led us to conclude that one strong person was orchestrating the whole enterprise. A visit by Andrea Avvazian, director of PDF’s Exchange Project, taught us something different. Though that individual does indeed exert a major influence, in fact there is a strong sense of shared leadership in the group.

PDF and PPF are located in the northeast and northwest corners of this vast nation. Through site visits we have been able to learn far more about regions of the country that are distant from or offices. For example, we once believed the Midwest to be a fairly homogenous region, until a staff person from PDF visited there. “Minneapolis and Chicago are not in the same region,” she was told firmly by one person. “We have nothing in common with northern Illinois,” said someone from southern Illinois.

In this way we learned that there are at least four “Midwests,” each with its own character and needs.

PDF Staff Members

Groups that host site visits from our funds benefit from the meetings, too. For one thing, we serve them as a window on the peace movement. Peace workers in northern Maine or rural Arkansas can feel very isolated in their effort. Such people love to hear news from the rest of the peace network; it gives them a sense of support, solidarity and hope. Because of our special role as hub and connector of grassroots peace activity, our Funds can talk – and literally have talked – about Maine in Arkansas and Arkansas in Maine.

Another boon to both PDF and the groups we visit is the appreciation which they stir in us. It is very energizing and gratifying to experience directly the fruits of our own labors, to see our support making such wonderful work possible.

Andrea Ayvazian, Exchange Project

This sense of appreciation for the work we see during site visits has taught us to balance carefully our judgment of groups we have visited with judgments of those we have not. “Whenever you visit a group and meet it members,” says Pat Close-Hastings, executive director of the Pacific Peace Fund, “you almost always end up liking them, and you are tempted to become their advocate. It can give them a great advantage in the competition for funding. A funder needs to be able to make fair decisions, which sometimes means turning down people you like.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit to local peace activists from our site visits is the way our coming affirms their sense of being worthwhile and needed. Taking the time and expense to see them at work sends a message as eloquent as words, and their gratitude for this extra expression of support can be very moving indeed – often shown in hand-printed welcome signs, special lunches prepared with care, and warm hospitality in their homes. “You’ve come so far,” a minister from remote Centertown, Kentucky, said over and over to Andrea Ayvazian with deep feeling. “You’ve come so far.”





Peace and Freedom Riders

18 05 2011

The Peace Development Fund has been a strong supporter of nonviolence training, from early work with youth, schools and Teaching Peace, to the Kingian nonviolence training sponsored by PDF in many parts of the country (pictured right), to Restorative Justice.

“Violence is the language of the inarticulate,” says Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr. (below), who has worked with PDF staff and Board on Kingian nonviolence training.  Dr. LaFayette, one of the Freedom Riders recently seen in the PBS documentary of the same name, will help celebrate PDF’s 30th Anniversary at the Amherst Cinema (Amherst, MA) on September 25th.  As the story below shows, PDF has consistently funded groups seeking to articulate a new, peaceful reality and bring change to their communities.

from Peace Developments, Spring 1989

A Closer Look: Conflict Resolution: The Fourth “Basic”?  The Wayne State Center, Detroit

Over the last several years, the improvement of our public schools has emerged as a leading motif in political campaigns.  Less than a decade ago, candidate Ronald Reagan vowed to eliminate the Department of Education; now his successor wants to be remembered as “The Education President.”  But while politicians and journalists argue over the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer in the classroom, the read business of learning is being disrupted by a rising level of conflict and violence.

The intensity of this violence is almost inconceivable: in Detroit, for example, school administrators ruled recently that a child cannot enter into mediation armed with a weapon.  Those of us who remember an orderly and instructive time in grade school might want to believe that this is an extreme case – in fact, the situation in Detroit’s inner-city public schools is typical of conditions across the country.

But while schools in similarly troubled areas elsewhere are calling in police officers to guard students and teachers, Detroit is taking a different tack.  There, a PDF-supported program run by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Wayne State University  is developing an innovative middle school curriculum that will teach young people how to resolve their disputes without violence.

Lillian Genser has been director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies for over twenty years.  During that time she has seen public enthusiasm for traditional peace issues ebb and flow, usually in response to the level of world tensions.  However, interest in conflict resolution for the schools has continually expanded.  Lillian Genser believes this is a direct response to the degree of violence in the schools.

But what is conflict resolution for school-age children?  Can it really make a difference in an environment where schools are reduced to using airport-style metal detectors to keep knives and firearms out of the classroom?

In fact, conflict resolution means many different things.  In many cases, students are chosen (or elected by their classmates) to serve as dispute mediators.  They receive special training and are available to other students who are willing to submit their difference to mediation.

The Wayne State Center’s project takes conflict considerably further.  It is introducing into Detroit’s middle school classrooms an integrated curriculum that teaches a range of skills to help children deal with the conditions of peace and non-violence through self-esteem and respect for the rights of others.

And school-based conflict resolution doesn’t stop with the individual: in many curricula, the link between small and large, between playgroups and disagreements and international confrontation, is often made explicit.  According to Lillian Genser, most school programs are based on a foundation of human rights education: “The integration of the global and the individual is fundamentally important.  Otherwise you never approach the roots of the problem.”  In Detroit, children learn to think about the global implications of violence through education about legal systems and training in human rights.  Classes have made trips to the Detroit Holocaust Memorial and local Afro-American Museum, and they plan to visit a Sanctuary Church in the future.

In additional, Lillian Genser points out that “what is left out of a curriculum makes as much of a statement as what is included.  We are introducing the language of conflict resolution to the schools in ways as subtle as the words in a spelling bee.”  Children, after all, are astonishingly perceptive beings: they learn by picking up on hints and clues that we as adults have long since ceased to notice.

The key to success in conflict resolution is broad participation by different sectors of the community.  The Wayne State Center aims to train individuals in various professions – for example, police and teachers – who can then convey the methods and benefits of dispute resolution back to their peers.  Even the most skilled program of conflict resolution in schools will lose effectiveness if the students receive a conflicting message for society at large.

For the same reason, conflict resolution has to become an integral part of the regular curriculum for both teachers and students.  Lillian Genser believes that a self-sustaining culture of non-violent mediation among children can come about “only if we are able to institutionalize a process so that the lessons can be internalized.  Conflict resolution cannot be simply another ‘activity,’ competing with other extracurricular opportunities.”

In fact, many school districts and state legislatures are now mandating, or, as in Michigan, “encouraging” the institution of such programs for children in the public schools.  Los Angeles, for example, has instituted comprehensive dispute resolution programs in its public schools, and PDF has helped to fund such projects in places as dissimilar as New York City and rural Abingdon, Virginia.  While peace education remains under attack from certain corners (the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, for example), more and more educators are appreciating its contributions toward an innovative atmosphere of learning in the classroom.  “People are unaware of what is possible,” says Lillian Genser.  “It was the so-called peace educators who put China back into the school curriculum well before Nixon’s ‘opening.’  And they were the ones who first focused attention on the global character of environmental pollution.”

We should remember that conflict resolution in the schools doesn’t seek to eliminate conflict – only to help students better deal with disputes.  Conflict is the natural result of our differing needs; learning how to weigh those needs and devise an equitable solution without violence and rancor is an indispensable skill for living in the nuclear age.  It is a skill which is learned, as Lillian Genser says, “the earlier, the better.”  The work that the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies is doing among middle schoolers, approaching young people before their coming preoccupation with high school graduation and jobs, is providing a model for similar programs in middle schools elsewhere.

However, it is often an exceedingly difficult and complex task to introduce conflict resolution into local schools.  Few districts have the excess funding to support programs not considered “basic.”  And even beyond the challenge of finding money, the kind of careful and patient planning that must precede any successful implementation often goes undone.  Without a solid analysis of the school’s structure and environment, as well as that of its community base, a project is bound to fail before it can ever build momentum.  Of course, this is especially true in poorer communities, where tight budgets and eroding tax bases make for even more skepticism on the part of local citizens.

Nevertheless, we are convinced that such programs are indispensable to the improvement for our schools.  At their most basic level, they make for a better learning environment by alleviating the level of violence.  At their best, they help to make young people champions of peace.  Conflict resolution in the schools deserves our advocacy, and the Peace Development Fund is proud to be a supporter of the effort.





Taking on Corporate America–and Winning!

3 05 2011

The Peace Development Fund has always been an early funder of small groups that take on the behemoths, whether they be in the government or corporate sector. INFACT, a grantee in 1985, was a young and small organization at that time, but had already waged a successful fight that brought about significant reforms in the life-threatening marketing of infant formula in poor countries. Thanks to funding from the Peace Development Fund in the first days of their campaign against nuclear weapons-maker General Electric, they soon brought down that “Goliath.”

Reporting on the fight against GE, they recall, “Our international boycott of GE products cost the company over $100 million in lost medical equipment sales. Major retail stores including Safeway and Target began stocking light bulbs made by other companies. In 1993, GE caved under enormous public pressure and moved out of the nuclear weapons business. When our campaign began, the world was on the brink of nuclear annihilation: 50,000 nuclear warheads were on constant alert and the U.S. was building five nuclear bombs a day. At the close of the campaign, no nuclear bombs were in production on American soil. Allied organizations continue to work toward the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.”

INFACT, now called Corporate Accountability International, is no longer the small, young “David.” They have gone on to many more successful victories, including Challenging Big Tobacco and a highly visible Corporate Hall of Shame. We are proud that PDF’s early support has allowed them to win and flourish.  Like PDF, they can show 30+ years of extraordinary and effective work, “Setting the New Standard: Corporate Accountability.”

from Peace Developments, Winter 85-86

“INFACT Aims Slingshot at GE”

In a David and Goliath confrontation that stirs the imagination, one of the multibillion-dollar corporations most deeply involved in the nuclear weapons business is being challenged with – ironing boards.

The ironing boards, the latest thing in literature tables, are popping up on the streets of Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay area. They are used by volunteer activists for INFACT, the organization that initiated – and won – the famous international Nestle Boycott. INFACT is now turning its spotlights on General Electric, which claims to “Bring Good Things to Life,” but which also brings us many essential parts of nuclear weapons systems.

From those ironing boards, in the past ten months, 2,721 volunteers have generated 185,172 individually signed messages of opposition to eleven major weapons corporations including GTE, Morton Thiokol, Rockwell International, General Electric, Westinghouse, and Monsanto.

INFACT began in 1976 with a handful of people in Minneapolis who were concerned about infant-formula abuse in Third World countries. It has grown to become an international people’s organization whose purpose is to stop the abuses or transnational corporations that endanger the health and survival of people all over the world.

Thousands of people working together in the effective Nestle infant formula campaign changed the practices of the world’s largest food corporation. INFACT is certain that thousands of people working together can also bring some changes in the nuclear weapons industry.

“People just don’t accept that nuclear weapons give us security,” says Ruth Shy, national director of the Nuclear Weaponmakers Campaign. “They want to challenge the corporations about their role in the nuclear weapons network. It’s exciting!”

The group sees the greatest threat to global survival today as the production and aggressive promotion of nuclear weapons by the multibillion-dollar weapons industry. With so much money at stake, weapons transnationals are involved at every level of the nuclear weapons chain: creating, developing, promoting, producing, and profiting from weapons of mass destruction. They are an invisible force in the decision-making process in Congress.

The Weaponmakers Campaign has begun by exposing and publicly challenging the role of the weapons industry in the spiraling arms buildup.

Now the campaign is shifting to concentrate on General Electric, the country’s third largest maker of primary nuclear warfare systems, involved in the B-1B and Stealth bombers, Trident, MX, and “Star Wars,” and maker of the neutron generators that prime the initiation of the chain reaction within nuclear bombs. GE was heavily involved in the Manhattan Project and is a prime example, INFACT believes, of how the nuclear weapons industry had influenced and engineered nuclear weapons policy for more than 40 years. Since GE’s work is critical to the production of so many nuclear weapons systems, INFACT’s focus on this one manufacturer can have an impact on the entire industry.

“We feel good about this campaign,” Ruth Shy says. “People want something concrete they can do, and we offer them that opportunity,” referring to a highly effective mail campaign to GE. In the first phase of the GE campaign, INFACT volunteers are exposing GE’s role and issuing a public challenge to GE to live up to its corporate motto and stop making and promoting nuclear weapons. The challenge is being made by tens of thousands of people what are signing postcards to GE with an anti-nuclear message.

A replay of David and Goliath? Perhaps. But let’s not forget who won.