Affinity Group Information Sessions

On July 18 and 19, community leaders joined information sessions on Zoom to learn more about On Earth Peace’s most recent initiative: Affinity Groups. Melia Hawthorne Klingler, OEP’s Gun Violence Prevention Intern, and Anesu Makufa, OEP’s Organizing Fellow, inspired these leaders to think about prominent issues in their community – gun violence, housing crises, mental health – and create groups dedicated to making tangible changes.

Affinity Groups are defined by a shared affinity or identity (i.e., mothers, members of the same congregation, students at a specific school, etc.) and a focus or issue (i.e., gun violence, climate change, Christian Nationalism, etc.). Together, these groups actively promote nonviolence and change the conditions that lead to violence in their communities. Affinity Groups are not simply book clubs, support groups, prayer circles, or venting outlets (although they may include these purposes). Rather, they act as catalysts for nonviolent action.

On Earth Peace first decided to adopt the Affinity Groups initiative after noticing that the organization’s constituency was so widespread, making it difficult to organize direct action. “Affinity Groups seemed like a great way to connect different OEP members with one another and work more locally,” says Klingler.

The information sessions had a total attendance of over 20 community leaders and OEP members, all of which intend to fight for change in their communities. Klingler was inspired by the attendees and their ideas. In one information session, Klingler recalled the attendees discussing the hopelessness of gun violence prevention. However, as the session proceeded, the group came up with an Affinity Group dedicated to promoting safe gun storage practices. According to Klingler, “we felt like we might be able to make a tangible impact on our communities that way.”

These information sessions were the first step in OEP’s Affinity Group training process. Subsequent steps for Klingler and Makufa include helping groups research their topics of interest, attain Kingian Nonviolence training, and create 90-day plans. Following the implementation of Affinity Groups, OEP will continue to act as the larger campaign, creating a point of accountability for these groups.

Overall, these information sessions inaugurated an exciting and inspiring initiative to further OEP’s mission of nonviolence on a larger and more tangible scale. The work of OEP’s constituent community is an important vehicle for change, and these groups give community leaders the tools to enact nonviolence.

If you missed the first information session, there will be another Affinity Groups Info Session held on September 9th at 12 PM EST. If you are unable to make it to the next session or simply want to learn more about Affinity Groups and how you can get involved in your community, visit the OEP Affinity Group page under “Projects” or contact Melia Klingler at [email protected].


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