Thursday, April 12, 2007


UP FRONT News April 10, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”
While New Jersey is sometimes the target of “Tonight Show” humor, when is comes to creating a very multiethnic peace movement, America’s reportedly most industrialized and most densely populated state may also be among its most well organized. The New
ark-based Peace & Justice Coalition is really a coalition, consisting of labor groups, religious organizations, student groups, politicians, educational groups - and UP FRONT News. In some contrast to the peace movement in New York City, the Peace & Justice Coalition, which has participation from North to South Jersey, is very African-American and economically diverse.
The Coalition emerged from the efforts of the People’s Organization for Progress,
which describes itself as “an independent, grassroots, community based, politically
progressive association of citizens working for racial, social, and economic justice and greater unity in the community.” Its goals include the “elimination of racism, inequality, poverty, sexism, unjust economic exploitation, all forms of social oppression, degrada-
tion, human misery, suffering and injustice.” It is the agenda of, among others Dr. Martin Luther King.
Like Dr. King Coalition, P.O.P. Chairman Lawrence Hamm, the lead organizer of the Peace & Justice Coalition, regards the War in Iraq as a community issue. It is a fact that
the war-makers reach out and into poor neighborhoods throughout the U.S. to lure young
people into becoming soldiers to die in Iraq and elsewhere. It is a fact that many young people perceiving and experiencing lack of meaningful opportunities in for example
both the inner city and rural America sign up and wind up getting maimed or dying in a war that is distinctly profit-motivated and being prosecuted by a number of draft dodgers
and politicians for whom war is vicarious.
And so the Peace & Justice Coalition has gathered a steadily increasing number of activ- ists, mostly from New Jersey, but some from New York. It is likely that among the rea- sons for the Coalition’s grass roots popularity is because, as far as I am able to tell, it practices small “d” democracy at its meetings. There are not only speeches; there is pub-
lic participation, Q&A, and the “open mike” is genuinely open. This contrasts with for example the dictatorship-like atmosphere governing meetings of example the rather warlike peace group ANSWER, a reality that explains to some degree problems that, to the gratification of the Cheney/Bush Administration, face the peace movement.
The Peace & Justice Coalition, which has had poet Amiri Baraka and ABC-TV “Like it Is” host Gil Noble, as speakers, has some Democratic politicians as members. The Coali- tion, however, calls for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a position that goes well beyond that of most Senate and House Democrats and the leading presidential contenders. Like George Bush, Hillary Clinton is not popular here.
A tree may grow in Brooklyn but the grass roots are growing in the Garden State.
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