Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Annual Report, August 2015 – August 20165

Our committee has a policy of open meetings at which all Friends are welcome, and while our official members attend with regularity, others do come to present concerns from time to time, for example the Driscoll berry boycott, at our June meeting.  Trying to fit in with the meeting’s schedule, in particular the Newsletter deadline and the agenda deadline set by the meeting Clerk, has resulted in several schedule moves, and recently we have been meeting on the fourth Monday of the month.

This year we continued the practice of having a committee clerk, who creates agendas and represents the committee between meetings, while having other committee members take turns presiding at our meetings. We recognize that it would be better to have a clerk to regularly preside over all our meetings but this year nobody came forward to agree to do so. In our September 2016 meeting our procedure is scheduled for reevaluation.

Our new concert series, “Mount Toby Concerts for Peace and Social Change,” began in September and ended in June, with a fine series of performers and good attendance at most concerts.  Our purposes in creating the series were outreach to our community, providing a venue for performers who cannot easily find performance opportunities, and support for musicians carrying forward the tradition of music as a voice for peace and justice; they are given 90% of the “gate” and sometimes 100%.  Although Mount Toby policy is that gatherings such as this supported by the Meeting or its committees are not charged for use of the space, at the end of the year we donated $337 to Mount Toby.  Diane Crowe who organized the series is organizing its continuance next September. To continue and be successful, the series needs a dedicated core of attendees.

We continued the opportunity for social service, in the form of helping at the Not Bread Alone food service, every second Saturday, though participation by Mount Toby Friends has been minimal.

We continued the tradition of letter-writing to legislators and others, with participation by around ten Friends each time it is offered, and by many more when the topic is particularly timely and compelling.  On occasion the letter-writing is supervised by somebody not on our committee, who comes to us with a pressing concern.

We brought to the Meeting our proposal to place a “Black Lives Matter” sign out front, and the Meeting agreed, though the sign has been “adopted” by others.  It continues to give its message however on the home page of our website.

Our film series continued briefly in the fall, with a documentary about Thurgood Marshall and a dramatic commercial film about the struggle for women’s suffrage, but with relatively light attendance we questioned whether the substantial effort to run the series merits continuing it.

In November we organized a well-attended 11:40 hour on the topic of mass incarceration.  In February we put on an 11:40 hour on the topic of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and provided background information on the movement, which is in opposition to the illegal occupation of the West Bank.  We believe that our committee has a responsibility to bring the issues involved in this topic to the attention of the meeting, and Scott and Susan Rhodewalt have been commissioned to think how best this could be done, in the fall of 2016.

The wording which we proposed to the Meeting regarding support for Muslims was adopted and sent to the media by the Clerk.  It is posted on our website’s home page.

Largely as the result of Beth Adams’ efforts, a gathering was held at Mount Toby, the “Cleaner, Greener, More Just Earth Care Fair” involving many organizations and cosponsored by at least 16 of them.  It was a time for many of the organizations to “network” and learn of each others’ efforts.

To support AFSC and Mount Toby’s representatives to it – Adele and Roxanne – we organized an evening of dinner and conversation in which Jeff Napolitano presented current activities of the regional branch.  The meeting was well attended by Friends.

We are commonly asked for cosponsorship, and sometimes donations, for activities of local organizations, and we sometimes agree, for example for Human Rights Day in Amherst, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Hampshire Interfaith Working Group for Refugees, and our own Earth Care Fair.

Every two years, FCNL asks Friends’ meetings and churches to suggest legislative priorities.  We gathered suggestions from Mount Toby Friends, and Miryam, our representative, sent them on to FCNL.

Besides the matters listed above, we have had discussion on many more, and we have decided not to do various things.  For a fuller understanding of this active committee, Friends are encouraged to read the minutes of our meetings, which are public and are announced on our listserv.