By Ann Daramola
On May 23, Medea Benjamin, clad in pink and standing against a backdrop of a giant CODEPINK banner, spoke to an audience of students and staff gathered in the Namaste Lounge at College Nine.
Benjamin, one of CODEPINK’s cofounders, visited UC Santa Cruz to talk about work that members of both CODEPINK and international organization Global Exchange are doing to further anti-war and human rights efforts. Along with a representative from Global Exchange’s Speakers Bureau and a student intern from CODEPINK, Benjamin divulged many of her activism tactics over a university-provided lunch.
“We’re doing a sort of inside, outside thing,” she said. “With this constant struggle to bring public outrage into the halls of Congress, we make the places we pay for our own.”
Benjamin recounted several of her successful attempts to bring the voice of the people to Capitol Hill, including a campaign to put pressure on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
According to Benjamin, small steps — such as calling for a meeting with Pelosi — will not only help provide media leverage, but also involve members of the organization who are not comfortable with taking more radical actions.
Jennifer Low, a former participant in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program at College 10, was one of the coordinators of the event, which included Benjamin’s campus-wide talk later that evening. Low expressed her concern about creating links between the various communities on campus who may or may not be involved in anti-war efforts.
“I think we should consolidate a plan to reflect the different opinions with the war,” Low said. “In the beginning we were trying to build momentum and the public wasn’t on the ball. Now we’re so separated from different communities, and certain tactics don’t resonate, so we have to start reaching out to different groups.”
The luncheon was sponsored in part by the Women’s Center and Colleges Nine/10, which brought different organizations into the Namaste Lounge to talk about organizing across UCSC’s vast campus community.
Many members of Students Against War and representatives from Colleges Nine/10, the Feminist Studies, Politics and History departments, and the National Organization for Women were present.
June Brashares, Global Exchange’s Speaker’s bureau director, knows all about using different tactics. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, Brashares infiltrated the hotels and convention space by blending in.
“I learned a lot by just going with Medea,” Brashares said with a smile. “[People] gave us clues, like being on your cell phone and calling out to someone past the security checkpoint. Having an attitude that you belong there really helps.”
Eventually, Brashares and her companions got into several discussion panels, including one on homeland security by simply wearing suits and “looking Republican.” CODEPINK made headlines when Brashares and others entered the convention with banners advocating peace that they had hidden in their pantyhose on the way in.
CODEPINK uses resources that are available for any organization interested in active anti-war efforts. Rebecca Morton, a student at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, was one of the representatives for CODEPINK at the luncheon. Currently interning for CODEPINK, Morton became interested in the organization after hearing Benjamin speak 12 years ago.
“I’m really enjoying the internship,” Morton said. “I don’t really see the same resources out in the East Coast as I see on the West Coast. I want to make the resources more visible for students who want to organize. Boston has more than 80 colleges; we can get them to connect and strengthen the effort.”