Reflections Two Weeks Later

Friends, things are changing for the worse and things are also changing for the better. The brutality of life is more visible for some of us than it was two weeks ago and surely harm is being done. However, it is not new. The harm has been happening, for some of us less blatantly and to a lesser degree perhaps, for as long as I know.

Let’s be real about our challenges and let’s also celebrate our victories. Here are a few recent wins: the South Burlington School Board voted to change the Rebel name, Governor Scott spoke against immigrant bans, and even Teen Vogue has offered a fabulous strategy to disrupt business as usual! Positive things are happening.

If we stay organized and engaged in active nonviolent resistance, we can make the world better at a faster pace than it is getting worse. Thank you for being part of our community and for using the PJC as the resource we strive to be.

“The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am writing this to share with you my own personal strategy for survival, as well as the things we have to offer you at the PJC.

My personal strategy is threefold: action, spiritual practice, and joyful connections. I will expand on that later. First, there are a few things I want to make sure you are aware of that we offer at the Peace & Justice Center. Many of you know we host events and workshop, that we have a store, and that we are part of a few legislative coalitions. I want to be sure you also know the following so we can be as useful to you as possible:

We have a community calendar. We do not profess to know the entirety of what’s happening statewide, but we provide as much information as possible. Please take advantage of this. Tell us about your events and check the calendar for others.

We have our biweekly enews that not only lists the PJC workshops and events, but also community events, articles from other activist groups and individuals, $2 vouchers to the Flynn, and other things you might not expect! You can receive the enews by emailing Wendy.

We act as an incubator for smaller or newer groups. We have an Allied Group program for folks looking for fiscal sponsorship and other infrastructure support. (Current groups include Stop the F-35s, Save Geprags Park, The Clean Elections Project, and Vermonters for Justice in Palestine.) We also help groups and individuals in less formal ways. We have meeting space available, we can list things in our enews and on our calendar, we have a community library with too many resources for me to keep up with, and more.

We host monthly drop-in groups: one on Toxic Whiteness and one called Disrupting Violence Discussion and Practice Group.

Since the election, we have been inundated with people looking for support to organize and access information. We are grateful to act as a hub for individual activists and groups. We’ve been doing so since 1979! However, in order to continue to say yes, we absolutely need to grow our capacity by growing our membership. We are just four part-time staff people plus a store manager. We support the efforts of Vermonters to create nonviolent resistance and change and we need our members to enable us to do so. The more members we have, the more we can say yes.

Memberships start at $15 or through volunteer hours. Please consider becoming a member at whatever level is meaningful to you. You can learn more about membership levels and benefits here. Please join today. It is a simple action you can take that has great value.

And now, for those of you who made it this far, here is my personal plan to stay both awake and afloat.
  1. Joy: I seek ways to cultivate positivity and meaningful human connections. If I am unable to access laughter and lightness during such heavy times, I will get pulled down. If we don’t practice loving those who are easiest for us to love, we will find it almost impossible to love those who we are resisting.
  2. Spiritual Practice: This might be religion for you. For me it is about being of service, and utilizing prayer, meditation, and satyagraha to the best of my ability every day. It is about creative life force. I play guitar. I choreograph dances. I spend time in nature. Anything that gets me out of me is spiritual. It is that which helps me tap into the interconnected web of energy and love that binds us.
  3. Action: Since I was a kid and started noticing injustice around me and toward me, I have needed to actively resist. The harshness of this world is at times unbearable. In order to maintain some semblance of emotional balance, I need to be involved in resistance movements. I seek community with others who are creating alternates to our mainstream cultures, working for solutions, and not allowing the status quo and unchecked privilege to prevail.

I recently heard the re-airing of an interview on NPR with Congress member John Lewis. It is worth a listen. He talks about how nonviolence was practiced in the civil rights era (he calls it “love in action”) and its usefulness today.

If you are reading this, we are already connected in some manner. The work we are doing together is crucial and has deep value. I hope you stay healthy, stay engaged, and stay in touch. I can’t do this without all of you.

Rachel Siegel
Executive Director, Peace & Justice Center