Posted today by Ray Powers

With Brian and Lisa Berman moving to Poland and a new core team being formed, I’m now taking on the mantle of the liaison to the city and to the global organization of International Cities of Peace. This includes a monthly call with the founder and other cities throughout the world to report on what we have been achieving in the name of peace. I’m enthusiastic to share with them how we have navigated our challenges and what the results might be.

I arrived in Ojai 23 years ago making a home in Matilija Canyon. In service to the community I was appointed a city planning commissioner and have been on the board of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition. For the last 8 years I have worked alongside the Berman’s and the other core group members to establish Ojai as an International City of Peace. As you know, we were the 99th in the world to declare this and there are now close to 400. In 2015 Mayor Johnny Johnston and the city council issued a proclamation and since then we have posted three road signs at each of the directions that enter into the city that expresses our commitment as a city of peace. In 2018 the city also declared itself a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. What this means is that the city divested itself of institutions and companies that are involved in the financing, manufacture, development, stockpiling and testing of nuclear weapons.

As well, myself and our team have produced the Int’l Day of Peace each Sept. to help remind ourselves what that initial proclamation means and the daily steps we need to be taking to not only be a symbolic representation, but primarily a proactive living culture that continually asks the important questions, What does peace look like?, How can we emulate and embody peaceful communication and interaction? How can peace, as a verb, be integrated into all of our environmental and social justice policies and community collaborations?

One of the most challenging questions that came up in a conversation I had with a friend is, “What are we pretending not to know?” Think about that for a moment. What are we pretending not to know? This question directly effects our personal and communal peace and undermines our commitment to create respectful and trustworthy arenas for us to generate imaginative and positive solutions. It’s important that we assess our own personal skill sets rather than assume we or another has the background or training to effectively collaborate in a manner that is peaceful, non-violent and emphasizes our commonalities more so than our differences. What I feel we forget is that proactive peace is about having the measures, methods, practices and skills already in place when conflict arises and cultivating them ongoingly.

With that I ask you and all of our community to join with me and call on myself and others to open peaceful lines of communication, learn new models of effective leadership and collaboration and draw on the expertise of those of us who have spent our adult years as mediators, organizational consultants, counselors, social engineers, community designers and environmental champions. I see positive years ahead of us when we are able to pivot wholeheartedly into the shared values of kindness, compassion, generosity and above all peace within and without.