Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Our World - Change It!

I returned last week from a trip North that included attending the National Counter-Recruitment and Demilitarization Conference: IT'S OUR WORLD - CHANGE IT!

Held in Chicago, hosted by the American Friends Service Committee and organized by the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, this was an excellent gathering of people who represent some 188 counter-recruitment groups in cities and towns across the country. The conference was attended by a large contingent of young people, and several of the workshops were led by youth.

The excitement was contagious. The Oakland-based group, BAYPEACE arrived on a Green Tortoise bus, having made their trip across the country, visiting national parks and doing some workshops in Denver along the way, part of the whole learning experience. The BAYPEACE group has been particularly active, and shared a video that described their Youth Manifesto campaign: "This is what I believe!" Check out the video on Youtube.

Similar to BAYPEACE, but from the opposite coast, came a group of young people from New York city: the YA-YA Network (Youth Activists - Youth Allies) They led a workshop about counter-recruitment basics that was great.

Between Oakland and New York, there are many counter-recruitment and peace education efforts in small and large school districts, and it was inspiring to hear stories from attendees who reflected a broad age range and variety of background.

Another highlight of the weekend was going out on Saturday night with a large group from the conference to the Brave New Voices youth poetry slam finals, which happened to be taking place just a few blocks from where we were meeting. What a night! The poetry was deep, deep, deep. When it comes to making art, not war, these kids showed how it's done.

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