May 8. 2023 / Pat Alviso / Peace Club Alliance - What to do when you are rained out of a parade? That was the dilemma Rachel Bruhnke and Pat Alviso, two high school peace club sponsors from the Los Angeles area, faced when 15 very disappointed students were told that they would have to reschedule their plans to march in the upcoming MLK Parade because the expected heavy rains meant that nobody would be gathering on the sidewalks to see them. Besides, they were told, their carefully painted signs would get ruined anyway. Undaunted, Rachel, who has a Peace & Planet Club at POLA HS in San Pedro, and a few of her stalwart students walked the whole parade route in the pouring rain anyway! (See pic). Now that’s youth activism at its finest.
Challenged, Pat and her peace club at Tracy HS in Cerritos, CA wanted a do-over. Rachel suggested we choose the anniversary of Dr. King’s death since, “That’s the day peace was murdered,” she declared. And so, the idea for a unique and more interactive event was born. Rachel’s Peace & Planet Club, Pat’s Tracy HS peace club and students from Jefferson HS in Los Angeles under the leadership of community sponsor Jabar Stroud, made plans for the day. They couldn’t choose April 4th since school was in session on the actual anniversary of Dr. King’s death, so they picked the next closest date-the Saturday before the anniversary of Dr. King’s death. Local community organizations jumped on board with the idea, and with the support from the Long Beach Area Peace Network’s militarism committee and the Long Beach Chapter of Gray Panthers- pitched in for what they hoped would be both meaningful and memorable way for students to commemorate the work of the great peace and justice leader. The Peace and Planet students prepared to read parts of Dr. King’s Riverside Speech, also known as the Beyond Vietnam Speech. Students learned that Dr. King’s gave this historically important speech that showed how the issues of war, poverty and racism are inter-connected. The Peace Club students at Tracy were to share how the US military is a major contributor to climate change by sharing statistics on how the US military is the largest user of fossil fuels in the country.
Still worried about the non-stop rain that month, April 1st turned out to be a perfectly sunny day MLK Park. Students and a few onlookers gathered at picnic tables, and, after a nice lunch, everyone participated in an icebreaker led by students from Jefferson HS. ( see pic). That was followed by a discussion on gun violence. Then Alma, from the California Conservation Corps (see pic) shared how the CCC is a great alternative to military service because they really do help the planet and can provide the same thing as military recruiters promise students -that is, housing, a monthly income with only a high school diploma requirement, medical insurance, travel and even a uniform! The students had many questions for Alma.
Students also learned that day about the Poor People’s Campaign and they wrote their own peace budget (see pics). The day ended with all the students holding their signs and gathering around the Long Beach art landmark, a statue of Dr. King statue at the entrance to the park. In an amazing feat, they commemorated the occasion with a tribute to Dr. King by managing to drape a flower lei around his neck. The statue was about 20 feet off the ground. “It was a such a meaningful event that none of us will ever forget”, said Tracy HS peace club president Eva Rodriguez. (see pics)