Participate in Peace: Lexington Progressive Peace Summit

Participate in Peace: Lexington Progressive Peace Summit

by Jeff Neikirk

In the immortal words of John Lennon, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” And that is all the Peace Action Task Group is saying: “Give peace a chance.”

The group will be giving the community a chance to learn more about world peace and how to show support for it at their upcoming Progressive Summit.

The event is an effort to get locals politically engaged and to offer an opportunity to gain skills that could produce political change through a variety of workshops. The Summit will be held on Saturday October 4th, 2003 from 10am – 5pm at the University of Kentucky Student Center. It is free and open to the public, and along with the Peace Action Task group, it will be co-sponsored by UK’s Women’s Studies Program and Disclosure, a grad student-run social theory journal at UK.

The mission of the Summit is to bring together people concerned with the current political environment in the hopes of creating a more just one in the future. These intentions will be met with such workshops as ‘Getting Young People Involved,’ Working with the Mass Media,’ and ‘Enacting Electoral Reforms.’ It will also offer an opportunity to register to vote in a workshop headed by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and each workshop will be oriented toward three main goals: Organizing People, Electoral Politics, and Ways to take Action.

“The summit will be a great opportunity to bring progressive education to the public,” said Rosie Moosnick, a moderator of a workshop at the Summit. “Many people I have spoken with have been afraid of speaking out for peace, afraid that they may be labeled as ‘non-patriotic,’ and these workshops will educate people like that as well as many others on ways to show support for peace and to speak out against war.” Moosnick is a member of the Peace Action Task Group.

The Group, a subcommittee of the Central KY Council for Peace and Justice, was formed over a year ago to protest the possibility of a war in the Middle East. Previously known as “No War in Iraq,’ the group has taken out paid advertising in the Herald-Leader, made bumper stickers and yard signs, and put out an educational brochure as a means of distributing the message that war is not necessarily, and often not, the answer.

Currently, the group conducts meetings, open to the public, on Wednesdays at 5:30pm in the basement of the Quaker Meeting House downtown on Price Ave. The past few meetings have been planning sessions for the upcoming summit, but the group plans to continue these meetings even after the summit has been held. Moosnick said that a brochure will be handed out at the summit asking those who attend to offer ideas and opinions about what they would like to discuss in the future.

“In the upcoming meetings,” said Moosnick,” we intend to do a follow-up to the summit and cover issues and ideas that those in attendance decide on.”

Guy Mendes, producer, writer, and director at KET, is hopeful that the summit will have a positive effect on the community. “I look forward to providing the community with a voice from the left wing, there are already plenty of right wing outfits speaking their minds.”

Mendes will be a moderator in the workshop focusing on working with mass media. “We intend for the workshop to offer insight on how to work with the mass media as a means of getting the message out, the message that this war in Iraq is being dragged out and too many Americans and innocent Iraqis are dying, senselessly. We hope to build a consensus that there needs to be a change of regime in Washington, and I think there are a lot of people out there who feel the same. And that is the ultimate, long-term goal for the summit, to have a positive effect on the ’04 elections.”

Mendes, who calls himself a “60’s era, Vietnam War protestor,” says that our nation’s foreign policy needs to be rethought. “We, as Americans don’t have to be the policemen of the world. This war will simply produce guerilla warfare ad infinitum, and this among other things has prompted me to become involved with the Summit.”

He is heated on the topic of the president, adding, “If Clinton can be impeached for sexual impropriety then Bush can certainly be impeached for deceiving the public about the reasons to waste lives and money in an unprovoked, unncessary war in Iraq. He lied and he’s lying still. While the country is less safe than it was from terrorism and the economy has gone to hell, Bush & Cheney’s buddies reap billions in no-bid contracts and the country’s rich get even richer thanks to tax cuts and record deficits that my kids and their kids will have to pay for. Meanwhile services to the elderly; the marginalized and the poor whither away. With the cacophony of hate-filled voices and well-funded organizations on the right, it seems imperative that people who seek peace and justice, come together to fight against war and militarism, racism and sexism, the sell-off of our environment and the erosion of our civil liberties–to name just a few of the issues that need attention in this dangerous time. Danger exists not only in the form of terrorism but in the form of a small group of men who have hijacked our government for their own profit and glorification. A phony flight suit and pipelines full of Iraqi oil do little to smooth over the fact that the American people have been deceived and something needs to be done about it.”

The summit will also include workshops geared toward the religious community and how it interacts with the political realm. Nancy Jo Kemper, Director of the KY Council of Churches, said “In our workshop ‘Working in the Religious Community,’ we plan to demonstrate how churches can be utilized as a grassroots organization, and a location perfectly suited for organizing people.”

Kemper says she will stress that churches host a voter registration event each year, “People in the religious community need to get involved in the political process with regards to shaping our common lives for the good of the public.”

Youth will also be targeted at the Summit as a means of shaping the future. Chris Garnett, a student at UK and member of the planning Committee for the summit said, “The summit will be a great way for progressives to come together and discuss the political agenda that the Peace Group has been working on. It is also a shout to would-be progressives in the community who may be timid, to take advantage of this opportunity or others like it, and get involved and speak out.” As a student activist in the community, Garnett was appointed to moderate the workshop ‘Getting Young People Involved.’

“The workshop will offer the younger constituents ways to mobilize their ideas and teach techniques and skills necessary to petition our political leaders,” said Garnett. The workshop will also showcase the Mayor’s Youth Council and the Young Democrats, two political organizations for young people in the community.

Certainly, all involved in the planning of this Peace Summit agree that this will be an excellent way to learn how to become an active member of the political community, how to use the tools that are at hand; TV, newspapers, churches, youth, and people in general as a means of distributing the message that the time has come for change, that there are too many people who feel the political leaders of our country, and indeed the world, are taking us down the wrong path. Do we want our children to grow up in the world that is being created by leaders who, as Rosie Moosnick put it “have a geo-political agenda”? Do we, ourselves, want to live a world where war is the norm and peace is merely a notion discarded by leaders whose opinions are swayed by dollar bills and big business?

If you answered ‘No’ to these questions, or are just interested in learning more, then the upcoming Peace Summit is where you should be on Saturday, October 4th. Engage yourself as an active citizen in the community. Be a part of the deciding factor in our democratic freedoms and preserve those rights and freedoms for yourselves, and the generations to follow.