Bending the Arc
It is fortuitous that we recently held our 33rd Triennial Congress that focused on Jane Addams's imperative "to learn to use our moral energy to create a new sort of force in this world." It is certainly time to put that FORCE TO WORK!
As I was unpacking some boxes filled with our Congress materials, I picked up Naomi Klein's
No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need
and remembered her transformative postscript for Canada:
"The Leap Manifesto."
Indeed, it states the value system that demands a leap of imagination; to imagine a world built on the intention of "caring for the Earth and One Another." It also serves as a complement to our program for "Women Organizing for Action" and our WILPF Manifesto 2015. Klein's ongoing indictment of Trump's use of "SHOCK capitalism" is even more applicable right now, as he has leads us into the tragedy of "fire and fury" and a "lock and loaded" world. She reminds us: "We can...shock the hell out of ourselves - by being united, focused and determined.... By refusing to be afraid, no matter how much we are tested."
When I welcomed all to Chicago, I stressed the legacy of Jane Addams and her imperative and the defining metaphor for our work at Congress, this time from Martin Luther King Jr. (quoting Rev. Theodore Parker,
early 19th century abolitionist): "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
The morality and faith that it takes for that bend and turning it into political will is now more than ever our challenge to RISE UP!
Thinking Globally and Locally
At our Congress, ninety attendees listened, presented, discussed, debated, and came together to RISE UP! The program challenged us to think globally and locally; from Syria, to Yemen, to banning nuclear weapons, to organizing in urban Chicago and how that organizing informs our work in our own communities, and from labor unions to Hull House, where Addams gathered together "the first national group dedicated to organizing women workers, Women's Trade Union League." All of which the plenary speakers brought home to through their own experience and expertise, pointing us towards areas where we must move forward.
Workshops challenged us to RiseUp! and bend that arc in areas concerning environmental and food rights issues, reimagining and sharing narratives of possibilities when all seems lost, continuing to support the UN Nuclear Weapons Treaty, political advocacy online and in elections, effective branch activities, collaboration and creative communication, human rights, and diversity and inclusion, and forming local to international grassroots movements.
We will have summaries posted on line soon and published in the upcoming Peace & Freedom.
Even more nourishing were the musical interludes that swept us up and carried away all our troubles on the wings of peace. The groups, Voices and Harmony, Hope & Healing, were joyful, playful and all together invigorating and taking rising us up to keep our momentum going.
On Saturday afternoon, after the members were informed about the Practicum and Local2Global programs the workshop attendees met again to distill their work and focus on building communities within and without WILPF US looking toward "next steps
We worked on creating grassroots opportunities in WILPF to further bend the arc during 2018 and 2020 elections and in supporting communities of color, immigrants and fellow activists. The resulting reports presented on Sunday will be documented for all members of WILPF
, to help focus our energies and to channel the 'moral force' we need to further bend the arc.
Later on Saturday afternoon, many of us dressed in white and walked "Towards Peace & Freedom" to Hull House. We followed the footsteps of the women visionaries who built a refuge and brought the nourishment of food, art, music and stimulating education to immigrants and all who needed safety at Hull House. True, it now is a museum, but the precepts and creative energy that were its foundation are alive and well today and basic to movement-building that supports peace and economic justice.
Join the WILPF Board!
On Sunday, with little time to spare, we met and heard from individual WILPF US Board Members and their request for YOU TO JOIN THE BOARD to share leadership and shape the creative work of re-envisioning our future together.
Throughout Congress we were particularly encouraged by the foresight of the LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE, convened by Darien De Lu and Laura Dewey. The promise of members continuing service to our Board with enthusiasm and commitment is paramount to governance and financial security.
Keeping our Mission and Vision Alive
We set aside a special time on Sunday to celebrate those women (nominated by their branches in photos and video) who have been integral in keeping our mission and vision alive. WILPF member and chalk artist, Peggy Lipshultz, graced our gathering with her relentless optimism and is a perfect example of the tenacity and talent of our WILPF women highlighted by this 98-year-old peace activist.
We Are Waiting for More Reports from Congress
If you attended Congress, thank you for being part of this momentous gathering. Attendees and those who facilitated community gatherings, workshops and issue committee roundtables or Night Owl/Early Bird sessions, please send concise reports (bullet points are welcome) to Nancy Price
by Tuesday, August 22, 2017. We are putting together a "newsletter" focusing on Congress Program and Bending of the Arc 'next steps' and other possibilities.
Like all Congresses, the best part was being together
Jane Addams herself noted that it is meeting regularly that makes WILPF WILPF. There was an uplifted determination expressed in words of gratitude that "WILPF has turned a corner," that "it feels like WILPF is coming back." Attendees expressed appreciation for the hard work of our Program Committee and our Congress Coordinator Chris Wilbeck whose work was that much more intense without a hosting branch. Words like "inspirational" and "healing" kept coming up. Our Board, working cohesively and with camaraderie, deserves much of the credit for whatever progress we've seen. We thank you, our members, for the commitment you share with us for peace and justice, and the efforts you make daily in your communities to keep WILPF visible and your tireless work to lift up our mission and goals, re-envisioning a world where the common good is common place. WILPF will continue to help bend the arc because all of us, united as ONE WILPF, support each other.