6/16 Gun Violence Campaign June Meeting
-Melia Klingler, OEP organizing intern
On June 16, 2023, people from all over the world (from Belgium to Indianapolis to Palestine) logged onto Zoom for the monthly On Earth Peace Gun Violence Campaign Meeting. Though different ages, backgrounds, and locations, all present were looking to build community, capacity, commitment, and courage for the fight against gun violence.
The meeting began with a time for people to share their experience with Wear Orange. June 2nd was National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Everytown USA led the movement by inviting us gun violence prevention advocates to wear orange as a sign of public support (Read more about the campaign background here). On Earth Peace joined this national initiative and we were blown away by the different ways “OEP people” took this invitation and adapted it to the needs of their community. Linda Himes from La Verne Church of the Brethren (CA), created a display in the narthex of her church to remember the deaths of those killed by gun violence, encourage people to pray for the families of victims and provide resources to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. Mary Ryan Hotchkiss and Karen Moore from the Spirit of Grace Church in Beaverton, Oregon, held a forum on gun violence and discovered many groups in their community willing and ready to collaborate on gun violence prevention. “Once you start doing things, it multiplies,” they rejoiced.
Linda Williams and Sandi Evans Rogers participating in #WearOrange
The Church of the Brethren Gun Violence Prevention Action Team also shared their plans for a vigil at the CoB Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. On the evening of July 6th, they will host a vigil and public witness in front of Cincinnati City Hall, bringing together church and community members for a time of remembrance, healing, and empowerment. They hope the vigil will inspire powerful action once the conference is over.
Challenged with translating passion about gun violence at the vigil into direct action, the CoB GVP Action Team and OEP presented those at the Friday meeting with a question: As organizers, what are the challenges and opportunities to take direct action against gun violence? The group discussed how difficult it is to pursue nonviolent action in a violent culture that idolizes guns. In a country where violence in the media is commonplace and ignorance and fear rule the conversation around gun violence, activists and organizers often feel lost and powerless. It's hard for people who care about preventing gun violence to know what they can do personally and figure out how to act in the places they are using the skills they have.
The organizers at On Earth Peace have been wrestling with this challenge for a while and took this opportunity to introduce the idea of Affinity Groups. OEP wants to empower people in different locations to create groups of people who share an “affinity” (such as fathers, members of the same church, students, etc.) and want to work together on issues using an active nonviolence approach. OEP will help Affinity Groups set goals, create an action plan, and implement Kingian Nonviolence in their work. OEP hopes these groups will inspire people to work on the most pressing issues affecting their communities. The idea was warmly received at the meeting, and OEP will share more details about Affinity Groups later in the summer.
This energetic and productive meeting inspired me to reflect on the fact that there isn’t a single path when combating gun violence. Rather, recognizing and empowering each person and community to use their skills and contribute their ideas to the conversation is the best way forward in this fight. If you feel called to join this conversation and tackle these issues with the OEP community, we invite you to join us for one of our affinity group information sessions on July 18th or 19th. See our events page to register.