Each year brings its unique challenges and the past twelve months were no exception. We continue to live in troubled times. The COVID pandemic seems to have abated for now, although new variants could still pose a threat. Domestic and international violence, the intensifying of the climate crisis, the need to protect individual rights and our democratic institutions show the deep need for peace with justice. In this context, the efforts of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice are as important as they ever have been and will be. Extending the principles of peace and justice through times of change has been our mission for over forty years. Finding new ways to do so is the challenge we face now.
In May and June of 2022 we met first in person, but then via Zoom, in part to reduce travel and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through the year, five of CCPJ’s meetings were in person and seven via Zoom. Doing so balanced the need to view decisions through an environmental lens against the desire to be together physically after the long pandemic. In June we met to stuff, seal, and label copies of our annual letter for bulk mailing to 800
During our June meeting we heard about an initiative begun by members of the Sierra Club Piedmont Group to express support for democracy. The focal point was the United Nations established Day of Democracy to take place on September 10. The insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021, plus on-going attempts by right-wing state legislatures to suppress voter participation, to gerrymander districts to perpetuate their power, and to assault individual rights prompted the concerns of all of us. Also in June, members of CCPJ joined with members of the Charlottesville Coalition for Gun Violence Prevention for ASK Day, “Asking Saves Kids”, to encourage gun safety in homes where children play.
In July we gathered at the Friends Meeting House for the Annual Meeting. There we elected four members to the CCPJ Board, received the treasurer’s report, and planned events for August and September. We also reviewed a statement prepared by CCPJ members in response to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. Because that decision took away a woman’s right to have an abortion by denying the validity of a right to privacy or bodily autonomy, members recognized the threat to many individual rights posed by the majority opinion. The CCPJ statement called on Congress to pass laws to protect individual rights. It is available here on our website.
On August 6 we held our annual remembrance of the bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. An eight-panel display on the Downtown Mall showed the history of this use of atomic weapons and also the horrific effects that use of modern nuclear weapons would cause. This information has become vitally important
as Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, threatens to use nuclear weapons in his war against Ukraine. The possibility of nuclear war looms over that conflict and other conflicts around the world.
CCPJ members also took part in vigils against the death penalty as the state of Oklahoma began a series of monthly executions. The vigils were organized by members of the Friends Meeting, the Quaker community in Charlottesville. (In support of those and other opponents of the death penalty, CCPJ helped the successful movement to abolish the death penalty in Virginia in 2021.) In another collaborative effort with the Charlottesville Coalition for Gun Violence Prevention, CCPJ members tabled at the Back to School Bash, where crowds of students and their families were able to learn about gun safety in the home and pick up free school supplies. In the August meeting members appointed a UVA student as the youth member of the board.
In September we again set up the CCPJ sign urging people to vote. Located at the intersection of Hydraulic Rd. and the Route 250 By-pass, the sign quoted John Lewis’ statement, “The VOTE is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.” On September 21, members of CCPJ tabled on the Downtown Mall in honor of the International Day of Peace. Many students from a local school learned about Peace Day and about CCPJ. The students gladly accepted free buttons to show their support for a variety of peace and justice causes.
In October, CCPJ joined with a dozen other organizations in the Protect Our Democracy event held on UVA grounds. This event brought students and community members together to learn about authoritarian efforts to undermine our democratic institutions and what to do about those threats. The event featured a forum with a panel including historians, local legislators, and a political cartoonist. In a spirited discussion, students and community members asked questions in order to gain a better understanding of the authoritarian forces at work in our society. During a break participants viewed tables of information from the sponsoring organizations and enjoyed pizza for lunch. After the break students and community members gathered in a very large circle and shared their experiences with
activism and their views on what needs to be done now.
In November and December, we held our No War Toys campaign. We purchased radio broadcasts of our message urging people to buy peaceful, creative gifts especially for children. We held signs at the entrance to Walmart on a Saturday afternoon with the same message. This year again we set up a big sign saying “Choose Gifts that Create - Joy and Peace – Dignity and Compassion” at the intersection of Hydraulic Rd. and the Rte. 250 By-pass.
This took place in the context of a community in shock and grief at a mass shooting on UVA grounds that killed three students and wounded two others. UVA and the surrounding neighborhoods were in lock-down for hours until the shooter was arrested in Henrico County. The three students killed were well known at UVA and in the community, as they played on the football team. On December 10, students and community members came together again at a vigil on the Downtown Mall to remember victims of mass shootings, but this time with UVA added to the list.
On January 16, Martin Luther King Day, members of CCPJ joined other community members and UVA students on a bus ride to Richmond for a rally to prevent gun violence and to lobby state delegates and senators. The Charlottesville Coalition for Gun Violence Prevention with help from others provided the bus.
On January 25 CCPJ held a Community Gathering via Zoom to celebrate CCPJ’s 40th Anniversary and to discuss in breakout rooms the challenge of sustaining volunteer-based activist organizations. The celebration included a seven-minute video montage extending from the incorporation of the Peace Center in January of 1983 through the December 2022 vigil to remember victims of mass shootings. Playing with the pictures of rallies, actions, and program material was a recent recording by the Charlottesville Women’s Choir of “Never Turning Back.” Fifty-five participants came together for the celebration and met in small groups assigned to breakout rooms in two sets to discuss the theme.
In February and March members began planning upcoming activities particularly for Earth Day where, a member suggested, CCPJ could hand out tree seedlings for people to plant as a tangible way to help the tree canopy in the area.
On March 23 CCPJ helped with a forum on Keeping Our Community Safe from Gun Violence. The forum was co-sponsored by the Charlottesville Coalition for Gun Violence Prevention and Walker-Buford United, an organization of parents of students. The panel for the forum included Charlottesville’s chief of police, a state senator, representatives from both Charlottesville and Albemarle public schools, and a board member of the B.U.C.K. Squad, “Brothers United to Cease the Killing”. Audience members questioned the panelists about ways to address mass shootings, local shootings by young people, and also safety from guns at school and in the home.
In March we also heard a report that the Activists’ Guide has strong viewership and a stable future. The Guide is a project that CCPJ helped start and has continued to support over the years. The Guide provides a directory of local activist groups and a calendar of upcoming events. In March members continued to plan for Earth Day with help from a board member of Cville100 and a member of the Charlottesville Tree Commission.
In April, CCPJ members put up our Save the Planet sign at the intersection of Hydraulic Rd and the Rte. 250 By-pass. We also organized an Earth Day tabling event on the Downtown Mall that brought together CCPJ, the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, 350-Charlottesville-Albemarle, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby plus the Charlottesville Tree
Commission and Charlottesville Environmental Sustainability Division. Along with much information about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we gave away fifty Eastern Red Bud seedlings with instructions for planting and information on restoring Charlottesville’s tree canopy. The seedlings were provided by a member of the Charlottesville Tree Commission, who provided a similar number of seedlings for tabling at the IX Farmers’ Market.
During the past year the need for vigilance to protect our democracy, our planet, our communities, our rights, and the future for our children has never been greater. But we need more than vigilance, because many people are not fully aware of the dangers or do not see a path to a better future. Moreover, the forces we oppose believe that they are in a war for the nation and will say anything, use any tool to get their way.
CCPJ has always extended our message into the public sphere through public statements and events, newspaper and radio ads, and large signs in public places. Now we need more ways, creative ways, and more voices to help people grasp the deep human need
for peace and justice and ways to attain those values.
We, therefore, invite you to participate in our virtual or in-person monthly meetings and in activities like those described above, and shown below!