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11.11.09

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News Blast

By Dani Burlison


Party for peace

Dubya's last day in office was met with an enormous collective sigh of relief from progressive groups around the world. Meanwhile, soldiers continued to be deployed to the wars in the Middle East, and concerns about healthcare and the national economic crisis continued to grow. Yet many imagined that in a country with President Obama in charge, the opportunity to sit back and relax had finally come. But groups like the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County knew that there could be no better time to stand up and be heard.

Known nationally for hundreds of successful active-duty military-separation cases—helping military members gain honorable early dismissal from the armed forces—the center was at its recent height of activity during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its toll-free phone number even scribbled over urinals in airports around the country. Today, though the wars are still responsible for weekly casualties, many activists have bowed out of the anti-war movement, possibly to work on saving their homes from foreclosure or to simply focus on their own lives.

With the national budget ruthlessly slashing funds, the Peace and Justice Center has not been spared. Through 25 years of providing the community with a voice for peace, the center has experienced its share of changes. Their dedication is deserving of a party and even some cash. To that end, they are throwing themselves a 25th anniversary party on Nov. 14 featuring Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin.

Earlier this year, the board came to the realization that its dwindling donations meant that they could no longer afford executive director and head military-separations counselor Elizabeth Stinson, which left the center a mostly volunteer-run organization with former board president Susan Lamont now serving as a part-time staffer.

The Peace and Justice Center is using the transition as a time to focus on the future. "We'd like people to see us as a place to come if they want to stop the war and work for peace," Lamont says. "We need to keep talking about it."

The Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, along with featured speaker Medea Benjamin, celebrates its 25th anniversary with a fundraising dinner. The evening is titled "Honor the Past, Commit to the Future." Saturday, Nov 14, at the Sebastopol Veterans Memorial Hall, 282 High St., Sebastopol. 4:30pm. $35–$40. 707.575.8902


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