grassrootspeace.org

November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website, traprockpeace.org, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.

THIS SITE NO LONGER REFLECTS THE CURRENT AND ONGOING WORK OF TRAPROCK PEACE CENTER, which has reorganized its board and moved to Greenfield, Mass. To contact Traprock Peace Center, call 413-773-7427 or visit its site. Charles Jenks is posting new material to PeaceJournal.org, a multimedia blog and resource center.

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History of Traprock Peace Center - a Continuing Story of Peacemaking

Twenty-Four years ago, Traprock was merely a twinkle in its parents' eyes. Woolman Hill School was closing its doors, and the Woolman Hill Board was looking for a new birth to take place. Beverly Woodward and Harvey Cox of the Boston area made a grand proposal and looked for local supporters. Randy Kehler, Frances Crowe, Gordon Faison, Pauline Bassett, and Meg Gage responded with enthusiasm.

Together these seven labored into being a new peace center, a place where the vision ofpeace and the hope of a different world might be nurtured.

Here the Nuclear Freeze took off, soon to spread all over the country and around the world, helping to ignite one of the greatest citizen movements in all of human history --- the movement to do away with the horror of nuclear weapons.

The Traprock Peace Center archives, from 1979 to 1985, are stored at the Umiversity of Massachusetts in its Special Collections. "Records of the Traprock Peace Center document the Center's efforts since its founding in 1979 to train and educate people locally, nationally, and globally, in matters relating to disarmament and nonviolence, as well as the Center's successful 1980 attempt to put a nuclear weapons moratorium ("Freeze") referendum on the national ballot. (The referendum passed in the general election of that year and was supported in all three districts of Western Massachusetts where the attempt was made.) Records include correspondence, newsletters, conference materials, newsclippings and other printed material."

Since its founding, Traprock Peace Center has stood the test of time, bearing witness to peace in the face of war --- nuclear war, The Contra wars, Star Wars, the Persian Gulf War, the continuing economic sanctions against Iraq, the recent bombing of innocents in Afghanistan, the plans to invade Iraq amd to prepare space itself as a battle ground. We stand against the war waged every day by the military-industrial complex against the poor of the world --- indeed against the world itself, against nature and our life systems on this fragile planet.

We have never pretended to have all the answers. But with the wisdom that comes from a beloved community struggling together, we hold fast to that place from which the true answers will always come --- that centered place of understanding. That center where we gather to hear, and to hope, and to honor what is essential.

Here is an account for Traprock Peace Center's first 10 years, from our archives:

 

A Decade of Peacemaking

In the spring of 1978, the Woolman Hill School which Randy Kehler and I had co-directed for some years finally folded and closed its doors.  The Woolman Hill Board set up a committee to decide what use to make of this place, and they sent out a request for proposals to peace and Quaker organizations nationwide. 

Several proposals came in: New Roots magazine wanted to set up shop here; there was a proposal to establish an environmental center… but the Board finally accepted a proposal from a group called ISTNA (International Seminars for Training in Nonviolent Action) to establish a center for the study and training of nonviolence, to link up with similar centers being contemplated at the time in India and the Netherlands.  Beverly Woodward, a long-time War Resisters League activist, teacher, and writer based in Cambridge, was the coordinator of that effort.

Beverly Woodward:

The original vision was to create a center for education and training in nonviolence.  That was my vision, and I would still like to see such a place.  I feel that nonviolence is a total ethic, which isn’t to say that any of us manage to live it completely, but it is not just a tactic or a technique.  The philosophy of nonviolence has fundamental relevance to the situation we are in; and there’s a lot to be learned about.

My proposal was to create a place where conferences and training sessions could be held on different aspects of nonviolence as they apply to structural violence, lifestyle issues, and also direct violence: military intervention in liberation struggles.  For example, the five nations that are supporting the Arias Peace Plan in Central America have recently called on the United Nations to provide an unarmed peacekeeping force to monitor that plan.  In my view, one element of a nonviolent transformation of society would be the creation of unarmed peacekeeping forces to replace standing armies. 

A nonviolence center could foster discussion and research on all aspects of nonviolence, and could conduct sessions that would reach all age groups: parents, elementary school kids, church groups.  That was how I had envisioned Traprock.

 

Randy Kehler:

The original core group began meeting in January 1979.  Joy Krementz and I were on staff, with Meg Gage coming on a little later as a fulltime volunteer.The feeling of the core group was that nonviolence as an organizing focus was too all-compassing.  We needed a handle.  The nuclear arms race.

 

Matthew Leighton:

These were the last years of the Carter administration.  The Committee on the Present Danger was banging the drum about the Soviet threat and the “window of vulnerability.”  Ronald Reagan was coming on like gangbusters.  Afghanistan was being invaded.  And Carter was playing a hawkish role in order to get reelected.

A massive rearmament campaign was underway: the MX missile, the Pershing, the Cruise, the neutron bomb.  Carter set about implementing Presidential Directive 41:  to prepare the country to fight and win a nuclear war.

If you had taken a sample of public opinion at the time, the escalating arms race would have begun to show up as a growing concern.  But there was no organized grassroots response.

 

Randy Kehler:

We saw the arms race as the ultimate manifestation of violence.  It justifies every other form of violence.

 

Meg Gage:

Traprock’s first project was actually a study group on the arms race.  We organized it in a very creative way.  We set up an agenda of eight weeks of study sessions, which people could take in groups or individually, by subscription.  Every two weeks they'd get another packet.

That became our first mailing list and it also became the start of a number of local groups.  Marjorie Reid got involved at that time with Church Women United.  These local groups became the structure for organizing the Freeze referendum a little later on.

 

Randy Kehler:

Chuck Matthei, the ever-present cross pollinator of the movement, mentioned to me in 1979 that Sojourners, in Washington, DC, had a program on the arms race.  He told me that they were pushing a moratorium idea in Congress:  the Hatfield Amendment to the SALT II treaty, calling, essentially, for a bilateral nuclear weapons freeze.

Jim Wallis and Mernie King from Sojourners came in 1979, at Chuck’s invitation, to discuss the moratorium idea with us.  Bells went off in our heads.  This was a great way to raise the issue.

In the Spring of 1980, Randy Forsberg, from the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies in Brookline issued the “National Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race,” which led to the first Freeze conference in September, 1980, in New York City.  Groups from all across the country were represented, but Traprock people were the only local organizers there.  We looked around the room and said, “Holy *@?%! (cow), we better win this thing!”

 

Judy Scheckel:

Randy came home from that meeting on Monday, and he was all excited… turning over chairs… “We’ve got to stop everything we’re doing.  Stop the house meetings.  We have to do a massive media campaign, T.V. ads, mass leafleting in front of supermarkets… We have to let everyone in Western Mass know this is going to be on the ballot.”

On the night of the vote, Frances Crowe had a party at her house.  Greg Speeter was there, calling up and getting tallies.  Every time a vote would come in we’d go, “Waaaaah!”  We had a great party there that night.  That was the night Reagan got elected for the first time, and the referendum was the only bright light in an otherwise dark cloud.

 

Randy Kehler:

We won 60 to 40 across the four western counties.  And we were able to go to the next nationwide freeze conference in March, 1981, in Washington… and there was Frances Crowe up on state on the tip of her toes, beaming, announcing to everybody that we had won!

 

The FREEZE Takes Off

Randy Kehler:

I left Traprock to coordinate the National Freeze Campaign in the fall of 1981.  I knew I was leaving behind a strong staff and a growing organization; though in a way the referendum had pulled in so many volunteers and so much support that it would be hard for the organization to ever duplicate that again.  But the bloom was still on the rose.  Marjorie Reid was up there coordinating volunteers.  It was one of those moments in history.  We were the right organization at the right time and the right place.

 

Judy Scheckel:

When Randy left it shook my bones.  It was great working with him.  He was a very skilled organizer, very articulate.  I trusted him. I felt very insecure, but people kept telling me, “Oh, you can do it.  You’re great.  Do it.  Do it.  We’ll do it together.”

We had a good solid core group.  Catherine Nagel was managing the office, Pauline Bassett was hired as Part-time fundraiser, and Sarah Pirtle came on to coordinate the flip charts.  Her gifts and skills in peace education led to the creation of a whole new program for Traprock in the schools.

Traprock’s work at the time was about half local and half national.  We were always focused on local campaigns: the referendum, followed by the passage of freeze legislation at the Statehouse in Boston, and the creation of a Governor’s Committee on the Impact of the Nuclear Arms Race on Massachusetts.  Each time we did a successful campaign, we would send out organizing packets through the nationwide Freeze network: how to organize a referendum, how to organize an endorsement campaign.  We sold a couple of hundred of each of these.  And Sarah was shipping out flip charts every day; we sold over 1,000 of them.

These were heady times.  We were feeding the grassroots nationwide, and we were running local campaigns.

 

Pauline Bassett:

We were in the middle of a national movement.  Every community had its own freeze group.  People were building on the excitement and going out in their communities to all the organization to which they belonged and getting churches, civic organizations, mayors, elected boards, councils, to endorse the Freeze.  People were feeling that anything was possible.

Sarah came on staff and started the peace education program, and that reached out to a whole different group of people that the Freeze, people who really cared about nonviolence: children.

 

Peace in the Schoolroom

Sarah Pirtle:

I remember in Amherst, where some of the kids from the fifth grade had invited me to come from Traprock to speak to their class.  I said, “Well, what are all your questions?” and I put them up on the board so I would be able to work with their interest.

One of the boys just looked at me and said, “We’re in trouble, aren’t we?”  It was such a wonderful moment, for him to name the truth.  I said, “Yes, we are, and we’re going to work to change it.”

At Traprock’s first annual educators’ seminar, the room was filled.  Many, many principals and teachers flocked to this.  It was as if a cork had been let out: parents and educators had been given an opportunity they’d never had before.

Traprock slowly began to realize that peace education is not an adjunct to ending the arms race.  It’s really the heart of things.

There were continual discussions about what we should focus on.  I always found that what really works at Traprock is when the staff or volunteers who are there go with their own particular gift.  Like Matthew working with civil defense…

 

Host Town or Ghost Town

Matthew Leighton:

I became actively involved in Traprock in early 1981.  I helped Randy put together the first organizing packet on how to run a Freeze referendum.  As soon as the packets started rumbling out I got involved in researching civil defense:  the government’s plan for crisis relocation during a nuclear exchange.

The Carter Administration had ordered FEMA to create large scale evacuation plans for the whole nation, from urban target areas to rural areas.  But the plans were totally absurd and dangerous.  Basically, civilians were going to be treated like pawns during times of escalation.

Massachusetts was one of the first parts of the country where the evacuation plans were fully developed and available.  Michael O’Donnell and I made it our job at Traprock to make sure people knew about these plans.

In Greenfield alone, we were supposed to harbor 200,000 refugees from Cambridge and Boston and Connecticut.  We produced a study with the help of UMASS analyzing how many extra beds, how much water, how much food we would need for all these people.  I spoke to all the Selectmen, who had signed off on this plan early on.  They hadn’t even read it.

Greenfield rejected the plans, as did Shelburne, Buckland, Gill, Leverett…  Eventually the Governor issued an executive order taking Massachusetts out of crisis relocation entirely. As whole states began to reject crisis relocation plans, nationwide, FEMA decided to scrap the whole thing.

 

Judy Scheckel:

I think that the people of Western Massachusetts are a very important block in the peace movement in terms of their commitment to looking at the long haul.  We were really successful in making the arms race a public issue and a grassroots issue.  Look at what happened to crisis relocation.  That never recovered, due to public opposition.  Now people are beginning to look at economic conversion, and the economics that really drives the nuclear arms race.

During my stay, Traprock was clearly focused on the Freeze, but towards the end I could see that was going to change, because interest and involvement was building around Central America.  Chris Mangan brought that concern with her when she joined as the new peace education coordinator.

 

Drawing Together

Chris Mangan:

I brought to Traprock a project I had been working on in West Virginia, called “Drawing Together with the Children Of Nicaragua.”  I would go into local classrooms and have the kids make drawings, which I took with me to Nicaragua, the first time, and subsequently we sent them down.  I collected drawings from kids there, and made a slide show of them when I returned, and brought that with me to classrooms.

At the Davis Street school, it was Christmas time when the kids make their drawings.  One had pictures of different holidays on it, and the child had written under the picture, “Here’s what you get on different holidays.  Halloween, you get candy.  Easter, you get Easter bunnies.”  It was a reflection also of an important part of Christmas for him: kids get presents.

I remember being struck by how possessions… VCR’s, swimming pools… appeared in their drawings.  The drawings from Nicaragua were more pictures of what those children see out their window:  trees, flowers, mountains, helicopters, soldiers.

 

Deepening Our Roots

Randy Kehler:

At the time I rejoined the Core Group, around 1986, Traprock had seen its early success stymied in the general malaise of the peace movement nationally.  As people began to get discouraged about arms control, it began to seem more important to meet the immediate needs of people suffering and dying in Central America from U.S. sponsored wars.

At the same time, peace movement groups across the country began awakening to the deeper roots of economic, social, and political roots of violence in our own society.  People began to make the connection that there can be no peace without justice.  Groups like Traprock became more focused locally as they became more discouraged nationally.

 

Kathy Swayze:

I was an intern at Traprock in the summer of 1985, when I organized the Freeze Walk, and also organized the Traprock booth at the Franklin County Fair.

I spent the full five days at the fair, and I organized volunteers to work there with me each day.  I just went through the volunteer rolodex.  I reached people who hadn’t been called in a long time, who were just so behind Traprock.  One woman was very elderly; she had supported Traprock for a long time.  She told me she’d love to go to the fair and be at the booth, but someone would have to pick her up because she was too old to drive.  We did. 

That year we had a computer quiz on the military that really drew kids in.  I taught so many people how to fold peace cranes, even the guy across the hall selling porcelite refinishing for bath tubs.  He watched us for three days until he couldn’t resist coming over to find out, “What are you doing here?”

 

Michael Holroyde:

When I look back on the time I spent as Traprock’s outreach director, the major highlight was the work we did, under Jennifer Shikes’ coordination, to bring a group of Soviet teenagers to Franklin County.  This was a new experience for large numbers of people in the community.  They went to eight different schools, all kinds of community events were arranged in their honor, and their visit absorbed the attention of groups who had never before been associated with Traprock, such as the Franklin County Association of Gardeners, who presented them with welcoming wreaths. 

Someone from the town of Greenfield suggested these teenagers might march in the Memorial Day parade.  A number of veterans objected strenuously to this, which caused such a commotion that it made the editorial page of the New York Times.  The editorial suggested that this was a time for forgiveness, not for opening old wounds.

It was resolved in a very gentle manner.  They made the Soviet teenagers guests of honor, and many of the organizations like the JayCees, the Vietnam Veterans, and the VFW stopped at the podium to make presentations to them.

That was not just a healing experience for Greenfield, but a signpost for what was going on between the governments of the US and Soviet Union.

 

Rebecca Morrison:

I was an intern at Traprock in January of 1981, when the Freeze was taking off.  Over the last few years I’ve seen a real effort on Traprock’s part to relate to the local community.  Everyone in town got involved.  It’s the kind of thing that people in Greenfield won’t forget.  They won’t think of Russia in the same way anymore.

The local forums Traprock has held on the economic impact of the arms race, and your work on the rent review campaign in Greenfield has shown a real concern for the community.  It’s important to work to change the long term structures of oppression, but also to respond to the immediate needs in front of you.

I’m glad to see Randy and Jim Perkins, and David Nussbaum organizing Traprock volunteers for the community meal.  It’s good to sit down and share a meal with people who aren’t from your own background.

Poor people and disadvantaged people have real faces and names.  People who are working on peace issues will see the connections between military spending and homelessness and hunger more vividly when they sit down and talk to people who are homeless and hungry.  That’s when the connection will really impact your heart.

The perspective of the poor is really important to listen to and incorporate into our movements whenever possible.

 

Chris Mangan:

The organizing Traprock is doing now to bring the issue of war tax resistance to the broader community is very important.  Many people know nothing about it, or think vaguely, “Tax resistance?  Oh, those nuts who walk around the Post Office every April.”  What’s happening with the IRS seizure of Randy and Betsy’s house is forcing people to look seriously at the commitment of people who take up tax resistance.  Trap rock shows them how many others are supporting their work.  It isn’t just a few isolated individuals who are odd, but rather people who are thinking clearly about what they believe in.

 

Randy Kehler:

The freeze was, and is, the most radical arms control proposal on the table.  The production has to stop.  We have to address the problem of the hundreds of thousands of employees who are building these systems that we are economically addicted to, before more dangerous, more sophisticated, and more expensive weapons systems are produced.  What are the implications of stopping all production?  That would be the profoundest shift for this nation.

We need to respond to our own community, but we also need to respond to the world in ways that local people may not care bout.  That dynamic tension is needed – in order to make any significant contribution to peace and justice.