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Looking Back at 2017: New England Associate Pace e Bene

Posted by Erin Bechtol

By LR Berger, Pace e Bene Northeast Associate

This year has been good for all worker bees! Together with coalitions of many organizations and communities I’ve been moved by all the successful vigils, events and campaigns we catalyzed and participated in here in New Hampshire. Along with these, in 2017 I convened and facilitated monthly meetings of the NH Reparations Working Group, the Building a Culture of Peace Forum, the NH Stands with Standing Rock Circle, as well as serving as member of the NH American Friends Service Committee Support Committee. All this work kept us sane, inspired, creative and energized despite the many causes for anxiety and grief.

Here are some of the highlights!

On January 12th, the Building a Culture of Peace Forum, now ten years into our vision, hosted Joanne Sheehan of the War Resisters League for a discussion on the discipline of skillful nonviolence, featuring as model the Nashville Lunch Counter Sit-Ins.

On January 20th, along with AFSC and the UCC justice Ministries I participated in planning and hosting a statewide silent inauguration vigil at the NH State House, followed by a surprisingly lively and moving circle conversation I facilitated about our shared values and how we will live them in this new political climate. Well over 100 people attended from around the state.

After two months of planning, on January 30th, the Building a Culture of Peace Forum held a gathering and fundraiser to benefit the National Lawyer’s Guild Foundation for Water Protectors Legal Defense Fund where about 120 people heard from Chief Wampimeequin Wampatuck, UN Ambassador for Native Peoples, Catherine Hoffman and others who witnessed about their time at Standing Rock. We raised $3000, and I collected names on a sign up sheet of those who later convened as the now, NH Stands with Standing Rock Circle. This group is now collaborating on a legislative bill to recognize Indigenous Rights Day in NH.

In February I organized two Peacekeeping Trainings hosted by the Forum and facilitated by AFSC NH’s Co Director, Arnie Alpert.

I also supported a Standing Rock Vigil with NH Stands with Standing Rock members and although it was a NH winter evening, we were all warmed by the good crowd and drumming and circle prayer led by Sterling Chase of the group.

The NH Reparations Working Group, which meets monthly to educate ourselves and others and advocate for Reparations, organized with NH AFSC a day long training of trainers with United For a Fair Economy on, “Closing the Racial Wealth Divide.” I also organized a follow up for trainers in the Spring with AFSC NH.

In May, the Building a Culture of Peace Forum and AFSC NH invited Migrant Justice organizers Zully Palacios and Enrique Balcazar into our community after their arrests by ICE in Vermont, to catalyze support for their Milk With Dignity Campaign for dairy workers. About 50 people attended and many signed on to support the campaign.

The success of this movement was just celebrated in October 2017!

On Tuesday, June 6, I joined as peacekeeper for a vigil held in support of a large group of Indonesians who were sent letters asking them to report to the Manchester Federal Building for an immigration review and possible deportation.

On Thursday, June 15th , the Building a Culture of Peace Forum organized a showing the film The River Cried: “Mni W’Coni” with filmmakers, Art Desmarais and Jehann El Bisi, a witness to resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

Together with the NH Stands with Standing Rock Circle, I participated in organizing another showing of this film with filmmakers, cosponsored by the Forum and the Mount Kearsage Indian Museum.

In September the Building a Culture of Peace Forum hosted the Granite State Organizing Project’s Active Bystander training by Aron DiBaccio and Sarah Jane Knoy, about 35 came to receive the training.

Much slowed down for me in October, when I was injured in a car accident. It was an opportunity for others to step up and step in to take leadership of the committees I haven’t been able to attend. The Forum planning committee has already begun conspiring for 2018, launching off the year with the showing of a documentary about John Lewis, “Get In the Way.” Other upcoming programs include collaboration with NH, a follow up bystander training and stay tuned.

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