Written by Peggy Sebera

Peaceful World Foundation, Heidi Majano, Exective Director invited us on May 5, 2022 9:30 am -11:00 for community conversation live in Petaluma, CA.

John Crowley and I invited participants to reflect on the question:

How do you experience Peace in the Community of Petaluma?

This title drew together 16 community leaders, who introduced themselves.

Some areas of work and action represented by participants included:

  • Leaders from Strozzi Institute for Somatic Coach Training
  • Oakland Youth Program director
  • Leader in Petaluma Blacks for Community Development
  • 4 members of Petaluma Community Relations Council
  • An artist active in sharing her Earth Art with Daily Acts Community Action Group
  • Block leaders from the Cool Cities Program, preparing 300+ blocks of residents for neighborhood support in case of emergency and climate change.
  • New Dimensions Radio Host
  • A local therapist and coach
  • President of the Petaluma Garden Club

Sitting in a large circle, outside, under an awning on a cool and cloudy morning, we overlooked the Petaluma River. We began with leader John Crowley expressing the sense of peace that he felt in that moment and many moments of his life as he participates in community gatherings of all types.

We all agreed that we could be happy just sitting together peacefully for an hour.  One person mentioned that we couldn’t bring peace to others in Petaluma unless we are experiencing that peace within. 

The conversation unfolded as our attention gently and gradually moved out beyond ourselves to various aspects of our city.  We acknowledged the fact that we are surrounded by nature; gentle rolling hills, trees, and wild grasses all around. This supports a peaceful environment. 

Perhaps the size of our city allows us to connect in so many ways through community activities: churches, art center, political gatherings, coffee shops where activities are planned to draw people together, We are fortunate to have the support of The Village Network for elders.

Petaluma got a grant to create The Cool Cities Program, bringing neighbors together with block leaders helping everyone to prepare to support themselves and each other during emergencies and drought, as well as everyday connections. People living near each other for years are meeting for the first time, creating a sense of community, peace, and support.

The conversation moved into looking at ways to connect others in our community who do not usually participate in the usual community gatherings, especially the many Spanish -speaking residents, as well as other people of color.  We talked about the program for Black Youth in Petaluma (Blacks for Community Development) and Oakland’s Youth Program. 

We need to meet diversity where it lives and works, in addition to inviting those who are diverse to come and join the mainstream activities.  Activities need to be co-created by diverse populations.  The Day of the Dead Event/ Exhibit is a good example of co-creation with diverse populations at the Petaluma Art Center.

The “Family Portraits” exhibit throughout downtown Petaluma showed diverse families in the windows of businesses throughout Petaluma. The Petaluma Museum’s annual Black History Month Exhibit has expanded to other venues.

One poignant comment ,which has stuck with me, is a reminder that to our inner peace is most often negatively impacted by our own critical, even harsh, thoughts about our own self.

Several participants asked “when can we meet again?” “How can we get each other’s contact information?”  We hope to have another conversation in early fall.

Heidi Majano standing next to leaders of the Institute for Social Advancement and the Strozzi Institute.

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