(Appears in the June/July NWTRCC newsletter, More Than A Paycheck)
NWTRCC’s semiannual conference and meeting took place in Berkeley and Oakland, California, on May 6–8. On Friday evening, about 30–35 people gathered at Berkeley Friends Church for registration, a delicious dinner, introductions, and a panel discussion. Susan Quinlan led us in an introduction exercise that was initially daunting, but turned into a silly and fun activity of nicknames and gestures that helped everyone remember names for the rest of the weekend.
David Gross introduced the evening’s speakers, Kwan Booth, Senior Community Manager at Oakland Local, a news website, and Mira Luna, an activist in sustainability and local currencies and the founder of Bay Area Community Exchange.
Kwan Booth described how many young people today use cell phones more than computers to access the internet. He gave examples of media and activist campaigns organized partially or primarily via Twitter, text message, and Facebook.
Mira Luna spoke about the power of local economies that generate most of the food and other items they need, and how this leads to more equal and sustainable economies. She also talked about local currencies and systems of exchange, including the Timebank that she helped found. “Currency” comes in the form of hours, and everyone’s work is equal. If a hairdresser spends an hour cutting and styling hair, she can exchange that for an hour of yard work from someone else, for example. You can see more notes about this panel online at nwtrcc.org/economics-outreach-panel.php.
We met on Saturday at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church near downtown Oakland. To start people shared their favorite war tax resistance (WTR) activism moments from the past year. Responses included participating in vigils and protests, running penny polls at events and in churches, leafleting, and working with high school students. The morning ended with the first round of workshops, in which people could choose from discussions on simple living, confrontational WTR, and outreach strategies.
“Walk & Talk” workshops were held over an extended lunch, designed to get us out walking around Lake Merritt. We split into groups of two or three to discuss two questions: what are the social networks that sustain you in your activism, and what kind of support do you need to stay active? We noted our responses on a short worksheet, and the results were plugged into Wordle.com, which creates a word picture that highlights the words mentioned most frequently.
Sessions for new and current war tax resisters were followed by workshops on homebrewing beer to avoid federal excise tax (with brewing instructions!); taking our Thoreau educational packet into the classroom; resisting Selective Service; and the New Priorities Project’s campaign to bring attention to military spending.
In the evening, Northern California People’s Life Fund held their annual granting ceremony in conjunction with a special program for the conference. The keynote speaker was criminal defense attorney and war tax resister J. Tony Serra, who gave a spirited talk about his experiences in the legal system, which also included stints in prison. We heard a few songs from the talented local Bay Area musician Francisco Herrera both before and after Tony Serra’s speech. Interspersed were presentations of redirected tax dollars from the People’s Life Fund. Each of the following groups received awards of resisted tax dollars in the amount of $1,000 or $1,500: Bay Area Women’s Project, BAY-Peace, Break the Silence Mural Project, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Civilian Soldier Alliance, Hand in Hand, PUEBLO, 9 to 5, and NWTRCC.
The Sunday morning business meeting was held at Berkeley Cohousing, where some of us also stayed for the weekend. We pulled off the meeting in 2½ hours(!). Our two major decisions were to form a Rapid Outreach Working Group to share information about war tax resistance with emerging movements and groups who may be interested in the information, and to pursue membership in Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI).
The meeting evaluation was very positive. We are all very grateful for the organizing efforts of Northern California War Tax Resistance and Sonoma County Taxes for Peace in hosting our May 2011 conference.
Erica Weiland lives in Seattle and just finished a term on NWTRCC’s Administrative Committee. She’s on NWTRCC’s Fundraising Committee and the new Rapid Outreach Working Group.
Follow links above for more information and notes from various sessions.
See more pictures on David Gross’s Picket Line blog.