Opinion: Our 30-year fight for peace and justice in Berkeley

Berkeley’s civic commissions play a larger role than is generally recognized in resistance movements.

Cities are leading the anti-Trump resistance. Hundreds of mayors, including Berkeley’s Jesse Arreguín, have signed statements redoubling commitments to sanctuary cities and the Paris Climate Accords. Around the country, leaders are advancing social justice and human rights locally, in opposition to policies set at the national level.

Civic commissions such as Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, which celebrates its 30th anniversary with a panel discussion on Thursday, Sept. 14 at the North Berkeley Senior Center, play a larger role in this resistance movement than is commonly recognized. As early as Dec. 5, 2016, the commission proposed Berkeley become a Community in Resistance, outlining concrete steps to expand Berkeley’s commitments as a sanctuary city and exiting from Trump’s national security state. When Berkeley denounced Trump’s U.S.- Mexico border wall in March, the commission was tasked to guide the city’s divestment strategy, a first for the country, through identifying which companies are contributing to the wall.

Berkeley’s network of some 40 commissions boards is known around the world as a model of community engagement, giving residents a voice in creating local government policy. As we advise the decision-makers, we have a crucial role in facilitating conversations and shaping initiatives on subjects that encompass racial justice, homelessness, public health, the status of women, police accountability, and international peace with justice, among others.

As Berkeley’s human rights commission, we are proud of our broad mandate, under which we advise both the city council and the school board on all issues of peace and social justice. Our name, “Peace and Justice,” refers to the goal of creating a world community in which the relations between people are based on equality, respect for human rights, and the elimination of exploitation and all forms of oppression. From hosting public hearings on racial equity to developing the city’s socially responsible investment index, the Peace and Justice Commission aims to strengthen Berkeley’s leadership as a Human Rights City.

Founded in 1986, against the backdrop of South African apartheid, the Peace and Justice Commission reviews three decades of its history, learning from the past to serve Berkeley’s challenges today and in the years to come. Please join us at our 30th-anniversary event, Sept. 14 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM, at the North Berkeley Senior Center. We will gather City Council and school board members and community organizers from throughout the city to discuss the state of social justice. Together, we will brainstorm how to elevate human rights and resistance to oppression to be the city government’s highest priority.

The 30th Anniversary of the Peace and Justice Commission takes place on September 14 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM, at the North Berkeley Senior Center on 1901 Hearst Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Alex Mabanta is the chair of the Peace and Justice Commission in the City of Berkeley and George Lippman is the vice-chair.