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Los Angeles: Community Conference Against the War a Success

By Jose Gonzalez

Los Angeles, CA – An important anti-war conference, titled “Community Conference Against The War: Building Community Power and International Solidarity” was held at the Hollenbeck Park Recreation Center on Feb. 23.

Organized by Centro Community Service Organization (Centro CSO) and People's Community Organization for Reform and Empowerment (People's CORE), the conference brought together community members, activists, cultural workers, and community based organizations with a history of organizing in the oppressed nationality communities. Centro CSO organizes in L.A.'s Chicano/Mexicano community and Peoples CORE is based among Filipinos.

It was East Los Angeles's first conference dealing with a subject that many would not discuss. In the days following Sept. 11, we had witnessed the sudden rise in chauvinism. For many, the events that took place six months ago shocked, disoriented and caused some to question their beliefs.

The challenge facing Centro CSO and the People's CORE wasn't trying to determine where they stood, rather it was trying to engage the communities they served. The coordinated efforts of these organizations gave rise to the conference. Activists are aware of the brutal policies and the atrocities the United States has carried out against other nations, and how the people have been exploited and oppressed.

There was a real need to take a stance against this U.S. aggression and there were our communities to consider. So the conference was put together to voice and organize opposition to the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan; its expansion to other countries, like the Philippines; the increase in racist practices, especially against immigrant workers; and the effects of the economic crisis.

Conference speakers and panelists included representatives of the Arab American Action Network, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Okinawan, and the MN Anti-War Committee.

They brought first-hand accounts, experience and knowledge on dealing with effects of the U.S. government's foreign policies. The subjects for discussion covered education, militarization, racism, national oppression and the war.

This type of forum allowed the community to gather information contrary to what they might have heard, or what they might have believed. The information would expose the truth that has been hidden by the corporate media. This helped people judge the government on the basis of what it does rather than what it says.

For many, the panelists' testimonies were astonishing. Two of Centro CSO's local community members spoke of education and the militarization of the youth. Their speech was profound and moving, even in the translation from Spanish to English. It set the standard for the speeches that would follow.

The day brought unexpected surprises. The feeling that arose that afternoon sparked a new energy, fueled by a desire to embrace the strength of the community. The culmination of culture, poetry, music and art inspired even the very young. A little girl spoke out, trying to express her appreciation and gratitude for the changes Centro CSO had brought to her school. Though she got caught in the moment and couldn't finish her statement, she had captivated the crowd as the passion of what she felt fell from the corner of her eyes. We knew what we had achieved that day would lay the foundation, a blueprint for our strategies to follow.

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