A New Year for Nonviolent City Morro Bay

By Ruth Ann Angus

As we celebrate on New Year’s Eve the ending of a successful year for Yes We Can Peacebuilders I can’t help but project forward to where we are going in 2019. This is the year we are going to get serious about nonviolence and peace!

The effort of almost two years brought about the issuance of a peace proclamation establishing Morro Bay as part of the Pace e Bene Campaign Nonviolence Nonviolent Cities Project. Now in 2019 our task is cut out for us to work closely with city officials to assure that each of the resolutions are achieved as we work in Morro Bay to promote better understanding between the community and its governing body, increase economic opportunity for all, and reject hatred, violence and conflict.

This also means collaborating with existing organizations and groups who have ongoing humanitarian projects taking place in the city. One of these organizations is the Estero Bay Alliance for Care that formed several years ago in answer to the need to help the estimated 3500 people living in some level of poverty in the city as well as supplying aid for a significant homeless population. The Alliance came about through the efforts of two city council members and has extended its reach to county social services, several voluntary service organizations, and the Morro Bay Police Department. While I have attended meetings held by this group on a regular basis, Yes We Can Peacebuilders has not been a qualified member of the organization. In the new year we will be joining as a full-fledged member organization.

But that is not the meat and potatoes of what we desire to do as part of the Nonviolent Cities Project. One of the things already in the works is the establishment of a Police Advisory Committee to put into place educational workshops both for the community at large and the members of the police department. We recognized last year through several unfortunate hate speech incidents that residents do not know what to expect from their police department in relation to these social aberrations that are occurring more and more in this country and locally. It was something of a shock to find that our small beautiful community was not immune to this kind of behavior. And also unfortunate that the response from our police officers lacked badly in compassion and understanding. Hate speech is not a crime and therefore the incidents were summarily dismissed by the police department. Work to help residents of our community to understand their rights, and nonviolence communication education for police officers is included in our plans.

We are starting our year with a new mission statement, a new website, and a new board of directors. We plan to do a serious professional fundraising campaign to establish adequate operating funds in order to pay for a part-time director and to fund the educational goals we have set forth.

Those goals include holding an ongoing series of Talk Around the Table workshop sessions for the community utilizing basics from the “Engage Workshop-Exploring Nonviolent Living” and the Human Rights Organization curriculum. These sessions are planned to be experiential for participants encouraging dialogue on a variety of topics having to do with violence versus nonviolence, women’s issues, dealing with despair in this political climate, and more. Talk Around the Table looks for participation of up to 10 people to meet for one to two sessions on each topic and literally, to talk around the table! Plans are to hold bi-weekly sessions in a variety of venues in order to bring the concepts of nonviolent living to a broad geographic area.

An important collaboration for our organization this new year is serving on the advisory committee for the new Peace Academy of Science and Arts San Luis Obispo. This is a new educational organization that offers experiential education of nonviolence and peace principles for children. At present they hold an eight week summer program for young children from kindergarten through second grade that presents topics of social justice through art and science projects. This program is to be extended to youngsters from third grade through high school in 2019. Plans are in the works for this organization to become either a private alternative school or to be chartered by the County Office of Education and to purchase a site adjacent to the City of San Luis Obispo to establish a facility. The operators of the Peace Academy feel that peace literacy is not being offered through the conventional school curriculum and to insure that future generations will be more inclined to govern in a peaceful nonviolent mode education has to change. Yes We Can Peacebuilders supports them in this goal.

A couple of somewhat longer term goals are for our organization to work with a professional filmmaker to produce two short documentaries -- one on the Nonviolent Cities Project in Morro Bay and another on the Peace Academy. These short documentaries would be shown at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival, the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Film Festival as well as other festivals throughout the country. I have collaborated with this filmmaker on a documentary about the grassroots organization that brought Morro Bay into the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. That film won awards for best short documentary and best film production at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival. We are excited to start fundraising to begin these projects.

Already our plans are established for the major peace action that we will do on September 21, 2019, International Peace Day. During the month of September, which is now City of Morro Bay Peace and Nonviolence Month, a six-foot peace and nonviolence banner will be displayed on the top of two poles in City Park for everyone who comes to Morro Bay to see. On September 21st Yes We Can Peacebuilders is holding a Love-In Peace Picnic at City Park. This is lightly based on the Love-In event that took place in Central Park, New York City during the late 1960s. Our Love-In will have entertainment from the Peace Choir, Drumming for Peace with a local drumming group, and Dance, as well as short speeches from area peace activists. Our hope is to offer a celebration of peace in order to show that peace in the world really is possible and to encourage the public to take part in public actions for peace.