History of the Peace Education Center : 1969 to Now
Lansing Area Peace Council – 1969-1975
The Peace Education Center has been in operation for over 40 years. It began in the summer of 1969 as the Lansing Area Peace Council (LAPC). Early meetings were held at churches, at Eastern High School and Lansing Community College (LCC), and then in 1970 the Peace Council located to a building at 506 N. Washington in downtown Lansing near LCC.
The Peace Council was a coalition of individuals and community groups. It had a board made up of representatives of churches and community organizations as well as at large members. It was never incorporated and members engaged in a wide range of nonviolent activities. The specific purpose in forming LAPC was to reach out to Lansing area residents to build momentum to end the Vietnam War. The Peace Council joined several statewide and national efforts to end the Vietnam War.
A decision made early in 1969 by the Peace Council Board (Miriam Anderson, Betty Duley, Anabel Dwyer, Earl Harrison, Dave Hollister, Betty Honey, Howard Jones, John Masterson, Ken Wood) was to hire a paid coordinator. The first person hired wasn’t able to fulfill the responsibilities. Ann Francis followed and became full time coordinator from 1970-72. During this period, Peter Guins and a core group of volunteers (Anabel Dwyer, John Masterson, Dave Dunn, Betsy Homan and many more) helped staff the office, organize fundraisers, activities and actions, write and produce newsletters and leaflets.
LAPC had over 200 participating members by 1972 with many committees and task forces. People involved in the LAPC were also involved in other efforts to end war and oppression. There was much overlap with other groups and much energy for change. There was monthly newsletter production with folding and addressing parties, lots of potlucks, and parties at peoples’ homes. A community garden was started and food was distributed to community groups. There were trainings and teach-ins.
Task groups of the Peace Council focused on Draft Counseling and the Selective Service System, War Tax Resistance, Self-Education, Lobbying at State Capitol, Welfare Rights and Social Services, High School Peace Actions, Non-violent Training and Action, People’s Peace Treaty, Military Industrial Complex, Women and War, Street Theatre, Lansing Area Churches Outreach.
LAPC was a primary organizer of the May 5, 1970 (?) March on the Lansing Capitol. In 1971(?) 14 members participated in a civil disobedience action opposing the use of nuclear weapons at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan. They were arrested and local activist and attorney Zolton Ferency defended them. LAPC organized a citywide door-to-door canvass to collect signatures on the People’s Peace Treaty. Over 2000 people signed. On Tax Day and at other times peace vigils were held at the Lansing Post Office. Members of LAPC traveled to Chicago to be trained in street theatre and several performances were held in front of downtown churches on Christmas Day. LAPC brought in speakers, theatre groups, purchased and showed movies, and gave talks in classrooms in high schools and colleges. The Council also organized trips to Washington DC to lobby and to join protests.
Peace Council worked closely and had among its membership students and faculty on the MSU campus and also students from the community college and local high schools.
Some of the groups working in the coalition were Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Clergy and Laity Concerned, Lansing Church of the Brethren, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Edgewood United Church of Christ, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Veterans for Peace, United Nations Association, Lansing Workers Against the War and others. LAPC was closely aligned with the Draft Information Center and the Michigan Institute for Nonviolence. LAPC had support from Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, St. John’s Student Parish, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, University United Methodist Church and the Human Rights Party.
LAPC members were also involved in the People’s Learning Center, an alternative high school targeted to reach African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Caucasian students; Sol de Aztlan, and Grape and Lettuce Boycotts, with some involvement in women’s groups and campus groups.
In 1972, the Peace Council changed locations and the coordinators were Betsy Shipley, Peter Guins and Gina Mandola. The office moved from Washington Ave to Michigan Ave.
piece submitted by Ann Francis, 2017