January 11, 2007

Black NJ Organizes Against the War [Part 1]

January 20 will see a most important anti-war conference in New Jersey and I have been unable to find much information about it on the Internet. Therefore I am taking the liberty of posting here what info I was able to dig up as a resource for activists--not just folks in NJ, but anyone who might go "Hmmm" at the idea of a grassroots, Black-initiated and Black-led anti-war conference. Go, thou, and do likewise!

It will be split into three posts. The first, this one, is the press release describing the event, driven in the main by the People's Organization for Progress, a splendid outfit which has been organizing in North Jersey around police brutality and other community issues for decades now, and which has taken a firm stand against the occupation of Iraq. The second is the rather striking list of sponsoring organizations. The third is the schedule of the conference itself.


"The People's Peace Conference on the U.S. War in Iraq and Our Communities" sponsored by The Peace Coalition will be held Saturday, January 20, 2007, at the Rutgers School of Law, 123 Washington Street in Newark, New Jersey. The conference program will start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m. Registration for the conference will begin at 8:00 a.m. The conference is open to the general public and admission is free.

The theme of the conference is "Breaking The Silence: The Grassroots Speak." The Peace Coalition is the organizer of the conference. The coalition is made up of ninety-four (94) organizations that have decided to become sponsors of the conference. It is composed of a broad spectrum of activist, human and civil rights, community, religious, civic, student, labor, peace, media and other grassroots groups.

"The Peace Coalition has three basic demands around which the conference is being organized. We want an immediate end to the war, the troops brought home now, and the money being spent for the war to be redirected toward domestic needs," POP chairman Lawrence Hamm stated.

"One of the main purposes of the conference is to educate the community about the relationship between what is happening with this unjust war and what is happening in our communities. We will discuss the relationships between the war abroad and repression at home, and increased military spending and decreased spending for domestic programs and how this is affecting our communities," stated Rev. William Howard, Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Newark.

"The war is affecting every person in this country. Everyone who wants peace should attend this conference. Hopefully, the conference will show ordinary people what they can do to bring this war to an end," said Annette Alston, President of the Newark Teachers Association.

"I would especially encourage African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color to attend. We must also make our voices heard on this issue. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King spoke out against the war in Vietnam we must speak out against this unjust war in Iraq," stated James Harris, State President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP.

"It is our collective hope that the conference will produce an action agenda that can organize and mobilize our communities to bring about the kind of pressure needed to help bring this war to a quick end," said Jerry Harris, President of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention.

Some of the members of The Peace Coalition include (but are not limited to) the People's Organization For Progress (POP), Board of Deacons of Bethany Baptist Church, NJ State Conference NAACP, General Baptist State Convention of NJ, Newark Teachers Association, NJ Human & Civil Rights Association, Mayor Wayne Smith of Irvington, Assemblyman Craig Stanley, NJ Peace Action, NJ Millions More Movement Coalition, Black Women's History Conference, Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters (MOMSAD), New Jersey Black Issues Convention, New Jersey African-American Political Alliance, The Black Ministers' Council of New Jersey, Association of Black Law Students at Rutgers-Newark School of Law, Martin Luther King Committee of Elizabeth, Clinton Hill-South Ward Improvement Association, South Orange-Maplewood Martin Luther King Holiday Committee, Women In Support of the Million Man March (WISOMMM), Black Telephone Workers For Justice, NJ State Industrial Union Council, WBAI Radio, and City Belt magazine.

The conference program will include morning, midday, and afternoon convocations, workshops, a plenary assembly for voting on resolutions, and a speakout session that will give participants an opportunity to express their views on the war to the whole conference.

More than 50 activists, grassroots organizers, religious leaders, and elected officials will serve as speakers, presenters, and workshop panelists at the conference. The workshop topics include, The War and our Rights, The Impact of the War on Our Communities, How Do We Stop the War in Our Streets, The Role of Religious Institutions in Ending the War, Building the Student Anti-war Movement, Preventing Future Wars of Aggression by the United States, and How Do We End the War in Iraq.

Guest speakers and panelists will include among others Rev. William Howard, Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church, Lawrence Hamm, Chairman, People's Organization For Progress, Annette Alson, President, Newark Teachers Association, James Harris, State President of the NJ State Conference of the NAACP, Jerry Harris, President of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention, Congressman Donald Payne, author and activist Amiri Baraka, and Madeline Hoffman, Executive Director, NJ Peace Action.

"We hope that the outcomes of the conference will include major anti-war protests, voter registration drives and economic sanctions campaigns that will take place in the state during the next few years," Hamm said.

The conference is also being dedicated to the memory of Damu Smith, an African American peace activist, who founded Black Voices for Peace. Mr. Smith, suffering from cancer, died last year. Towards the end of his life he campaigned for an end to the U.S war in Iraq.

"We are trying to uphold the legacy of Damu Smith by increasing African American participation in the peace movement through this conference," Hamm said.

For registration and additional information interested persons can call (973) 801-0001.

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