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Our Vision: Oakland as a City of Peace. Oakland as a City of Peace Builders.

By Jennae Wallach, a Peace Ambassador

The power of one connection, one action, and repeat!
Gifts from the Peace Ambassador Training

In 2011, I attended the Newark Peace Education Summit featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace laureates, and community leaders from around the country each contributing to peace-building in their own way.  It was my first visit to Newark in decades – the place I was born, grew up, learned about the civil rights movement first-hand, witnessed the Newark riots, experienced White Flight, and shifted to representing a minority demographic in my neighborhood.  I vowed to myself as a 12 year old that adults should be able to help children feel safe, but I barely knew any adults that provided a sense of comfort and support.  
 
At the Newark Peace Education Summit, I met a wonderful staff person from The Shift Network (TSN) standing outside the conference site.  I was moved to share a vision for my current home - Oakland, California - as a City of Peace and a City of Peace Builders.  The connection with TSN led to learning about the Peace Ambassador Training.  That led to imagining the Peace Ambassador Training as a magnet which would bring together many of the wonderful peace builders in Oakland so that we could know, trust, support and build upon each other’s work.
 
The Shift Network facilitated creating that magnet.  In the past 2.5 years, approximately 60 of us living and/or working in Oakland have taken the Peace Ambassador Training.  Learning in community is powerful.  The Peace Ambassador Training has been a source of connecting, bonding, widening our circle and expanding our knowledge.  Members of our circle have delved deeper by taking classes from each other’s organizations and recommending these priceless resources to our individual networks.
 
Hearing stories from James O’Dea and the array of guest teacher that are part of the Peace Ambassador Training touched a place in my heart that is very hard to ignore.  The visceral memory of being 12 year old, walking a few blocks from home and watching National Guard tanks patrol the neighborhood, remembers declaring NO – this is not what a neighborhood looks or feels like.  That young voice continues to pull on me as an adult and say – please be with the fear and take the next action.  The Shift Network staff and the courageous peace builders I have met by taking the Peace Ambassador Training inspire me to listen to that voice and push beyond my comfort zone.  I couldn’t/wouldn’t have taken these steps without them.  Even peace building takes a village.
 
My peace building vision is held and shared by many more people now.  I imagine each of us wearing a peace builder’s tool belt.  The tool belt includes concepts, principles, and practices that generate peace within our self, peace in our communications, and peace in our activism. As we encourage each other, deepen our practices, and spread the skills of peace building – the practices evolve from serving as a tool to becoming a part of who we are.
 
In deep gratitude and appreciation,
 
Jennae Wallach
Facilitator, Oakland Peace Ambassadors
 


Jennae Wallach is a visionary leader and change agent for organizations undergoing transitions/transformations. She has extensive experience leading initiatives inside complex systems including hospitals, schools districts, cities, and community-based organizations.  Working closely together with a client’s team, her projects have spanned initiating new directions, building advocacy, engaging diverse communities, and creatively generating resources, often taking an initiative from the idea stage to implementation.  Jennae has a Master’s Degree in Public Health and is a professional mediator, collaborative negotiator, and facilitator.  In collaboration with her clients, she has designed curriculum and led trainings to promote community building and expand skills.  jennae.wallach@gmail.com

The Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive The Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in:
2014 Catalyst, Issue 6: Peace Ambassadors for the 21st Century

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