Press enter after choosing selection

Legacies Project Oral History: Chuck Warpehoski

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 9:32am

When: 2020

Chuck Warpehoski was born in 1978 and graduated from Grinnell College with a BA in sociology. He worked in Washington D.C. for the Nicaragua Network and Latin America Solidarity Coalition before moving to Ann Arbor in 2003. He directed the Ann Arbor nonprofit organization Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) for sixteen years, focusing on issues such as nuclear disarmament and affordable housing. He also served on the Ann Arbor City Council from 2012 to 2018. He and his wife Nancy Shore have two children. 

Chuck Warpehoski was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2015 as part of the Legacies Project.

Transcript

  • [00:00:09.89] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: All right, so my name is Chuck Warpehoski. I serve as the Director of Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice. I started with the organization in 2003. My wife and I had just moved here after-- my wife and I had just moved here after doing a year of volunteer service in Washington DC.
  • [00:00:31.39] We moved to DC just four weeks before the September 11th attacks. And I worked for a solidarity organization, the Nicaragua Network. So I was already involved with a lot of the issues that ICPJ was involved with around Latin America solidarity, human rights, School of the Americas. My wife and I moved here partly to get out of DC. We did not like the community there. We didn't feel a sense of connection, wanted to get back to the Midwest.
  • [00:01:02.83] My wife was considering getting her master's in social work. And while we were in that process, the position opened up at ICPJ. And it was absolutely the right fit. I had the community organizing background. As a Quaker, I had the faith-based background. And quite frankly, I was willing to work for what they were paying. After a year of volunteer service, where I was getting paid almost nothing, it felt like a big raise.
  • [00:01:31.09] OK, and I'm Jane Pacheco. I work with Chuck at the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice. I'm going to be asking a few questions here. When you came on in 2003?
  • [00:01:42.52] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Mm-hmm.
  • [00:01:46.72] JANE PACHECO: What was the organization like? Who were you working with?
  • [00:01:51.59] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So when I came in 2003, we were going through a lot of transitions at the time. All of our staff was turning over at that time. So we'd lost a lot of that institutional experience from the staff side of things. But we had a very strong task force model.
  • [00:02:11.63] So even though the staff person who had supported our nuclear disarmament work was retiring, I had all these other activists and volunteers who knew the issue and knew what was going on. One of the things that was really interesting at that time is 2003, we were already well into the internet revolution and all that stuff as a nation. But ICPJ didn't have its own website. We didn't have an email list. Our database was rudimentary.
  • [00:02:41.08] So a lot of the stuff that we needed to do just to catch up we were starting from scratch with. And we're still learning with that, but remembering the old Apple computers that were falling apart and all that stuff. And now, we've got all these amazing tools for communicating with people. It's been a real change just in the last 12 years on that.
  • [00:03:08.58] JANE PACHECO: And what was the work like? What were they working on?
  • [00:03:14.00] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So we were serving a variety of issues. The task force's I served-- you're testing my memory here, Jane. The task forces I served, I served our nuclear disarmament task force. I served our Latin America task force. Let me see, nuclear weapons, Middle East, Latin America, and--
  • [00:03:44.34] JANE PACHECO: [? Crop? ?]
  • [00:03:45.13] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: I did not serve [? crop. ?] We had a globalization task force that was getting started then too. And I served that.
  • [00:03:50.01] JANE PACHECO: OK. But [? crop ?] was--
  • [00:03:52.83] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: [? Crop ?] was Grace Potts. And Grace also served racial and economic justice.
  • [00:04:00.76] JANE PACHECO: OK, so tell us a little bit about the task force model and how it's changed since then.
  • [00:04:08.50] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So the task force model, we were founded out of these popular movements of the 1960s and 70s, where the sense of the people lead and it's the staff role to support that community grassroots leadership was really the story we told about ourselves. So the idea with each of these task forces was that they would figure out the strategies, set the direction, carry out most of the work. And I was there just to help nudge things along.
  • [00:04:35.89] Sometimes it's worked that way. Often, what I find is that these are people-- our volunteers care deeply about the issues. They know them well. But everybody's so busy today. You know, when we found-- we were talking about this before the interview started-- when we were founded, we had all of these stay at home moms who could put in a lot of hours and really carry the issue. Now everybody's so busy. Everybody's working so hard. They're able to give a couple hours a month to these issues. And the role of staff leadership to follow the issues, to provide some of the vision, to carry things out has really increased.
  • [00:05:11.44] That said, like I said, having that bench strength of knowledge of the issues, knowledge of the community really helped me as I was getting started. When I served the Middle East task force, I walked in knowing nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So having people who knew-- troves and troves, deep treasure chest of knowledge-- was absolutely indispensable for my ability to serve that issue.
  • [00:05:34.72] JANE PACHECO: And the makeup of the task force is somewhat similar today in terms of I mean, these are folks with decades worth of knowledge around any given issue.
  • [00:05:44.35] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Oh, absolutely.
  • [00:05:45.76] JANE PACHECO: And as far as sort of the makeup of the issues, I mean, of these that were there 10, 12 years ago ICPJ is still organizing the Crop Walk. We are still involved with Latin American issues, involved with racial and economic justice issues. Some of the other things that have gone by the wayside, talk about sort of the ebb and flow.
  • [00:06:12.48] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Sure. So a couple of things there. One is it's been our, like I said, when I started having that deep knowledge base on the different issues was absolutely essential. It was also a challenge for the organization. This was 2003. The war in Afghanistan was already in place. And the war drums were beating very loudly for the war in Iraq. We were just at the beginning of that.
  • [00:06:38.92] And we asked our different task forces, this is the issue of the day, should we take it up, racial and economic justice? Should we take up profiling against Muslims, Arabs, and Southeast Asians? Nuclear disarmament, should we take up the war? Middle East, should we take up what's happening here? They all acknowledged those were important issues. But they were passionate about other things. They were passionate about affordable housing. They were passionate about what's happening in Palestine. They were passionate about nuclear weapons.
  • [00:07:10.33] And we weren't able to really deeply move our attention from these issues that are still so important to the issues that were dominating the headlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the loss of civil liberties. We were able to do some. But we weren't able to do as much of a redirection as we probably needed to in that period.
  • [00:07:36.75] So that was one of the dynamics with the task forces I saw. And we're still trying to sort through how to make that work. In terms of some of the issues that have risen and fallen, the stories have been different. Our globalization task force had a very good period of work. We had an amazing conference with national leaders on it over at First Presbyterian Church. And then, because of the attention on the war, some health problems with people in leadership positions, we looked around the table and said, you know what? It's time to lay this down for now.
  • [00:08:13.05] Similar with our nuclear weapons work, it went on for a while. We started a task force around the world in Iraq. We combined those two. And eventually, people got tired. And we agreed to say, OK, let's take a break from this.
  • [00:08:31.50] Other issues, our work around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it almost destroyed the organization. We ended up with a deep division about the messaging we should take, what tactics we should take. And for some people, it became an absolute issue. Some people argued that if we did not call for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, we weren't supporting our mission to be a justice organization.
  • [00:09:04.94] Other people argued that if we didn't find a way to keep members of the progressive Jewish community involved in the conversation as allies, then we weren't being true to our interfaith mission. And so finally, we got to a point. I remember one meeting, where we were discussing whether or not we should pass a resolution related to sanctions and military divestment from Israel. And somebody at that meeting suggested that we talk to some of our allies in the progressive Jewish community. And somebody else said, no, I don't even want to talk to them.
  • [00:09:51.22] And I think that shows just how sour the relationships have gotten. And we reached a point where we said, you know what? This isn't working for us. And the board had to make the decision to lay that committee down and start a new committee, try to get a different approach to the issue.
  • [00:10:14.37] JANE PACHECO: On the other hand, can you speak to the issues that have continually been worked through?
  • [00:10:24.32] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Absolutely. So a couple of the ones that we're still working on, one is the Latin American task force, working around US military and economic interference in Latin American countries. And that's one where we've seen everything ebbs and flows. I've seen just tremendous interest.
  • [00:10:44.48] I remember one of our volunteers, Jennifer Mills. I don't know if you've had Jennifer Mill's story told for these.
  • [00:10:50.09] JANE PACHECO: No, I haven't.
  • [00:10:50.67] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: OK, so Jennifer Mills, one year she was a member of St. Mary's student parish. And she'd heard about the School of the Americas thing. She came down with us one year. That year, we were just doing carpools. People were piling up in cars and rented vans and driving through the night. We'd get hotel rooms. Or there was a pretty nasty apartment building that was near the base that we'd rent apartments from and, you know, just fill them up with people sleeping on the floor, and then do the protests Saturday and Sunday, then drive-through the night Sunday night to get back Monday morning. Not the safest in terms of people being awake for the drive home.
  • [00:11:30.53] Well, Jennifer came down with us her freshman year, crammed into an SUV. It was pretty crowded in there. Somehow got locked out of the apartment where she was supposed to be sleeping and had to spend the night in that SUV, just curled up in the backseat. But she was a great sport about it.
  • [00:11:54.01] And so the next year she said, Chuck, this isn't the way we should be doing this. We need to get a bus. And I said, well, I don't know. Buses are kind of expensive, you know? I don't want to be on the hook for a $5,000 bus rental. But she did an amazing job. She reached out within her own congregation to get some funding. She reached out to the UAW to get some funding. She built a connection with Sienna Heights, a Catholic university in the area to get students and staff person onboard.
  • [00:12:24.47] And she was able to get a bus together and line it up. And she was amazed that I trusted her with it. But I I waited until she had some of the funding lined up before I signed any contracts. And so we had that bus going for years all because Jennifer was willing to go down that first year, was still willing to stay involved after she got locked out of her room and had to sleep in the car overnight. And then she just took amazing leadership to line up students throughout the region to get down to Fort Benning.
  • [00:12:58.97] JANE PACHECO: I didn't know that story about Jennifer. But I do recall another story about Jennifer in terms of her ripples into her network and her community, where she took her experiences with ICPJ. Can you tell this?
  • [00:13:17.78] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Sure, there's a couple of other ripples. So the bus that continued after she graduated was one of the ripples of her involvement. Another is that she had gone in to undergraduate work planning on a career in chemistry, if I remember right. Well, as she was involved with some of these social justice issues, she realized she wanted a career that was going to have some more social impact and end up going into public health and doing public health work first down in the South, Alabama I believe, Alabama-Georgia area, and now back in the region.
  • [00:13:54.74] Because public health is one of these areas where you can really make a difference in people's lives. And there's just tremendous equity issues of who's getting sick, who's getting health care, who's getting poor nutrition. And so that was one ripple. Another ripple that she had is one of those friends that she recruited to go down on that trip was then so inspired by that work that she became more involved with Latin America issues, both from a solidarity perspective and sort of a sustainable development perspective.
  • [00:14:32.64] And she ended up going down for, I believe, several years down to Central America helping put in wells and do other community based development projects. Again, it's one of those ripples that Jennifer was able to start affecting people's lives who are still drinking out of those wells. Because we were willing to put some trust in somebody who had a vision for how we could do better.
  • [00:14:59.80] JANE PACHECO: And probably one in 10 of the stories that you can actually have the opportunity to see kind of full circle. There's many, many, many years worth of impact stories that we don't get to see. Because they're just out into the world. I want to come back to-- so I know just by having been here for a little bit over a year now that we, you and I, and anybody that is out into the world with ICPJ hat on is asked, well, do you do any work about this issue? Or what do you do with Rwanda? Or how do you work on women's rights? You know, continually.
  • [00:15:43.78] You know, you've talked a little bit about how our task forces work. I mean, this organization could literally work on hundreds of issues at a time. How do those decisions get made?
  • [00:15:55.80] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Sure. One of the things that helps us decide that is a lot of our international work comes out of a solidarity model. And that is when the apartheid-- I'll tell my own story on this. When I was in college, I did an internship with the East Timor Action Network in DC.
  • [00:16:23.02] East Timor had been occupied by Indonesia. And the Indonesian regime had a terrible human rights record. But the United States was still arming, training, and equipping the Indonesian military. They were, I believe, the third or fourth top recipient of US military aid. When US human rights activists would go to Indonesia, they would be told-- when they go to East Timor they'd be told, you know, we can handle what's happening here in our own community. The problem is that your government is giving all this military aid and financial assistance and military training to our occupiers. We don't need you here. We need you back home fixing your own government's policies.
  • [00:17:09.50] And that's the same story that happened during the anti-apartheid movement. That's the same movement that happened during the guerrilla wars in Central America. That's the same story we're hearing now from social movements in Latin America dealing with oppression.
  • [00:17:26.73] And so when we look at international issues, our lens is not, OK, let's go over to some other country and tell them how they should run their business. Instead of a lens, we have a mirror to say, what is our own government, what is our own community, what is the United States doing that is either contributing to the problems or contributing to the solutions?
  • [00:17:52.04] So things like Rwanda, that wasn't because the US was going in and arming and training one ethnic group or another. North Korea, people ask, why aren't you saying about North Korea? Well, because the US isn't the one that's asking the military regime in North Korea to be as brutal as they are. Let's hold up the mirror. Where are we making mistakes? Where are we supporting things that we shouldn't be? And let's work on those issues.
  • [00:18:24.41] Now that said, even that is huge.
  • [00:18:27.43] JANE PACHECO: Right.
  • [00:18:28.10] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: It's still more than we could lead on. Some of the things we look for well, one, if there's easy ways that we can support groups where maybe we're not taking the leadership on it, but it's in line with our mission, we'll find ways to do it. We'll promote it through our email newsletter. We'll let people know about them. We'll help them make connections. We'll do some of that. I consider it sort of second fiddle support. We're not the leaders. But we can help out.
  • [00:19:00.26] The second piece is member energy. When we have committed members who are passionate about the issue and willing to take the leadership to help move it forward, that helps us move forward. That's how our globalization topic got started. That's how our environmental topic got started. People are coming up and willing to-- I have little patience for people saying, what you should do is. But when somebody says, here, let's do this together, that opens doors for us.
  • [00:19:41.03] And we're still finding out the best way. How do we both be faithful to these issues that we've worked on for decades, like Latin America, like nuclear weapons? And how do we be responsive to emerging issues that may or may not be ones we've worked on? Now with the Black Lives Matter movement, we've been working on racial justice for years. But now there's a national conversation about it at a level that I haven't seen in my time here.
  • [00:20:14.33] How do we respond? Where do we put our energy?
  • [00:20:16.97] JANE PACHECO: Can you speak up to a little bit about the history of ICPJ working with the issue of race and economic justice over those decades?
  • [00:20:31.67] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: I might be getting the founding story wrong. But I'll tell you what I think is true. We were founded as an international, a group that was looking at international peace issues, right? We were looking at the war in Vietnam. We were looking at starvation in Africa. We were looking at the Cold War with Russia and the potential of nuclear annihilation. We were looking at these international issues, particularly international peace issues.
  • [00:21:07.81] But the speech that Dr. Martin Luther King gave in response to the war in Vietnam, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence, where he called out the triple evils of racism, militarism, and excessive materialism, when he drew the connections between the wars abroad and poverty and violence at home, that really informed, really spoke to a lot of people.
  • [00:21:39.26] And so I believe it was in the 80s that we started looking at this issue. We changed our name from Interfaith Council for Peace to Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice and began the work around racial justice, bringing it into our organization.
  • [00:22:01.90] JANE PACHECO: Just to add, I had a conversation with one of the founders just a few days ago, Russ Fuller. And they talked a little bit about when we added justice to that. Because before, it was just ICP, right?
  • [00:22:16.74] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Yeah.
  • [00:22:17.65] JANE PACHECO: And when they added ICPJ, it really was, he said, because it became just obvious that without justice there could be no peace.
  • [00:22:28.63] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Right.
  • [00:22:29.32] JANE PACHECO: Yeah. And that changed focus, like you said, to this more of a mirror type lens. So OK, so in terms of REJ, so racial and economic justice, I mean, today, the Black Lives Matter movement is national. And it's a cultural conversation that we're having. But what's impressive to me as I hear from folks through the years is that we aren't coming to this conversation like you came to the organization not having known about a certain issue. We have institutional memory. We have relationships with law enforcement, and congregations, and community groups that are decades old.
  • [00:23:25.12] I think the safely talking about race and racism, how old is that program in and of itself?
  • [00:23:33.29] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So safely talking about race and racism is a partnership we have with the Ypsilanti District Library, where every season, in the sort of fall semester, spring semester, summer semester, we do a couple of film showings about this theme of race and racism. And I believe that we're in our second year of that. But again, like you're saying, it builds on. It builds on work we did with the Ypsilanti and other libraries around.
  • [00:24:00.36] There's a Understanding Race project that happened a couple of years ago. Right now, I'm also working with one of the Ypsilanti District Library staff people about this Black Lives Matter stuff, and how do we get community conversations about that deeper? How do we work with law enforcement? So these relationships are how we're able to be-- we're having this interview a week after the shooting in Charleston. Our email's full of people saying, what's going on? What can we do? And they are asking us for a response. Because they're seeing a leadership role.
  • [00:24:41.78] And we're able to have some of that conversations. Because when I call up Pastor Hatter, Pastor Jerry Hatter of Brown Chapel AME Church, a bedrock community institution in the local African-American Christian community, we've got an ongoing relationship. He knows who I am. We have a relationship of trust and collaboration to try to say, how do we solve this problem together?
  • [00:25:09.62] JANE PACHECO: All right, yeah. And drawing on that, the book group, the origin of the Racial Injustice Book Group?
  • [00:25:19.46] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Right. That goes back-- it goes back about five years I believe. One of the things we found-- it may be longer. It all blends, blurs together. One of the things we found, so we have a task force for racial economic justice that's been trying to address how do we solve problems like affordable housing in our community? How do we solve these problems of racial injustice? And what we found is we'd sit down for our work meeting and we get pulled into these deep, foundational questions about how do we understand, how do we make sense of what's going on?
  • [00:26:02.80] Just to sidetrack a little bit, when the civil rights struggle was about Jim Crow, when it was over laws that said blacks can't use these fountains, or very clear practices of denying voting rights, or very rampant, widespread, visible, even here in Ann Arbor, real estate agents refusing to show blacks homes in white neighborhoods. When that was the problem, when racism was naked, it was simple to identify what change needed to happen. It wasn't easy. People died to make those changes.
  • [00:26:46.52] But the intervention points were simple. Now, when racism is-- it's much more subtle. It's that when an African-American walks into the doctor's office, the doctor doesn't listen as much, gives the patient less time to respond to questions, asks fewer questions, doesn't put as much credence in what the patient says. Not because the doctor is a bigot. It's not that kind of naked racism. It's because racial stereotypes are subconsciously affecting the doctor's behavior. That's a much harder problem to solve.
  • [00:27:25.36] And it happens in our doctor's offices. It happens in our HR departments. It happens in our classrooms. It happens when law enforcement is pulling somebody over for a traffic stop. It's happening all the time every day. That's a different way of trying-- that requires a different response than something like the lunch counter sit-in or the voting rights marches.
  • [00:27:55.39] And we're having this conversation. How do we make sense of this? How do we find a way to address these very real problems? If we spent the whole business meeting trying to have that conversation, we wouldn't have any time to figure out what would we actually do. So we set up the Racial Justice Book Group as a community forum that our members and other broader members of the community could have that conversation. What does racism look like today? How do we make a difference? How do we see it in our different institutions?
  • [00:28:27.86] So we're building up the level of understanding about these issues and also freeing up our own time in the task force meeting to say, like OK, we're going to do A, B, and C about it.
  • [00:28:39.32] JANE PACHECO: So to me, that's an important conversation about the why of things, which leads me back to a term that we use a lot in this office, root cause. Can you talk about root cause and why ICPJ feels that we need to get to the root cause?
  • [00:29:06.81] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So-- glad this is being edited, so we can edit out this pause here.
  • [00:29:17.33] JANE PACHECO: Matt, got that? Edit out this pause please. I don't mean to spring it on you.
  • [00:29:23.21] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Right, yeah. Yeah. So when we're talking about root cause, that quote from Thoreau comes up. For every 1,000 people hacking at the branches of evil, there's one cutting to the root, or something like that.
  • [00:29:40.63] JANE PACHECO: Striking at the root.
  • [00:29:41.15] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Striking at the root.
  • [00:29:42.41] JANE PACHECO: Yes.
  • [00:29:44.35] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: When we look at these issues of let's take housing affordability, we have this tremendous problem in Washtenaw County. Ann Arbor, we are pricing people out of the market. We are making Ann Arbor into a gated community without the gates, where we've got to be pretty well off to make it here. And if you work here as a dishwasher, as a receptionist, as a substitute teacher, as a daycare worker, there's no room in the inn for you.
  • [00:30:19.67] On the other side of 23 in Ypsilanti, we have a problem where we're concentrating poverty. And when we concentrate poverty, it has tremendous negative impacts for the schools, for the neighborhoods, for public safety. So we really need to be working at a way of addressing that problem, those twin problems, as a community.
  • [00:30:44.52] Now, we need to be looking at the symptoms of this and doing-- the reason why root causes are important is if we only treated this as a symptom, as the problem is housing affordability, the solution is to get more publicly subsidized housing, that's an important part of our strategy. Don't get me wrong. We need that.
  • [00:31:15.42] But when we're able to get those permanent affordable units, it's a dozen here. It's a dozen there, maybe 100 in a big project which happens once every 25 years. There is no way that we can reach the scale that we need to if we just stay on it from that symptoms problem. We need to be getting more to the root of inclusion, equity, and economic self segregation, right? Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township are socioeconomically segregated. But so is Barton Hills. So is Ann Arbor Hills.
  • [00:31:57.82] So it's a different kind of segregation. We don't talk about it that way. But they're mirrors. They're twins. You don't have one without the other. And we all hurt. There's a lot of data. Our economic health, our public health, all of that is hurt when we have those levels of inequality and self segregation. If we're not getting at that, we're just treating the symptoms. And we're not getting to the root.
  • [00:32:24.64] JANE PACHECO: So a lot of what I see ICPJ is-- and I know these aren't your favorite words either-- but raising consciousness, educating, and then offering some ways to strike at that root cause in all of the initiatives that we tackle.
  • [00:32:46.33] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Well, and I find with raising awareness, as long as it's paired with that other thing of, what do you do about it? OK, you know that housing affordability is a problem. I'm glad that that's in your heart and in your head. Now I want your hands active to do something about it.
  • [00:33:01.98] JANE PACHECO: OK, so can you give me some examples? I know through the years, we were talking about-- well, I've had the opportunity to talk to all sorts of people about things that have happened through the years. And the things that they remember, the things that have impacted their lives, that have changed maybe the direction of their lives, a lot of it comes from experiential experiences.
  • [00:33:27.76] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Absolutely. When I hear our founding generation talk about what they remember from those years, everybody talks about the crater we dug [INAUDIBLE]. This was a creator who is as big as-- this crater was as big as the craters that the daisy cutter bombs would make in South Vietnam. And it took a huge [INAUDIBLE]. We hand dug this crater. I'm just building a fence this week and I'm getting-- just a little hole, post holes that I'm getting worn out. This was a huge crater.
  • [00:33:58.63] And then they made a map of Ann Arbor. And they said, if we bombed Ann Arbor at the same rate we are bombing our allies, South Vietnam, we'd have craters like this in every neighborhood. But when people got their hands in the dirt, and they dug that crater, and they were going door to door handing out those cards, there was an experiential component to that that burned it in their memory in a way that the slide shows and the talks didn't always do.
  • [00:34:24.14] I get stories of William Sloane Coffins speaking. And some of the speakers we brought in were very memorable. But everybody talks about the crater. One of our former board members who's just been a tremendous-- she's given so much to Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, [INAUDIBLE]. She first got involved because around this issue of racial and economic justice, Congress was debating cuts to food stamps. So we did a food stamp challenge. We said, OK, fine, everybody. Try living for a month on a food stamp budget. And that experiential thing of, OK, I want to try this. What is it like? How does it feel like? [INAUDIBLE] was so excited about that. And that's how she got involved.
  • [00:35:08.87] Ruth [? Kraut, ?] Ruth's been involved with a lot of issues. But one of the things that she talks about most is on the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we did what was called a shadow project. You see, after the bombs dropped, the heat of the blast was so intense that the outlines, the shadows, the silhouettes of people and other things were burned into buildings and burned into the sidewalks under the shadow of the blast. It's a pretty haunting thought.
  • [00:35:47.73] So what we did is we had people lie down over black plastic. We'd cut out their silhouettes. And then we'd take essentially it was chalk mixed with water. It was this chalk slurry. And we went around Ann Arbor. We went around Eastern University. We took this chalk. We laid the plastic down. And we did these blast profiles outside of that and stencils of the words, so people would know what they were all about to just remind people of the terrible destructive power that nuclear weapons still have, that the United States still has a tremendous stockpile of them, that we're still wasting a lot of our tax dollars on it. And it doesn't have to be this way.
  • [00:36:27.63] It was fun. It was artistic. It felt a little bit rebellious. Because we are out there at dawn. One of our members, Trudy-- we actually got the permission. We got the letters from the city attorney's office to say, yes, this is not in violation of our ordinances. But one of our members, Trudy [? Huddington, ?] who was in her mid 70s then, an officer challenged her about it. And she was just fierce in her determination to take part. So those experiential pieces have been very transformative. And we see it now.
  • [00:37:04.33] We see it with our Crop Hunger Walk. People still tell me stories about seeing their name in the paper from doing a hunger walk when they were five years old. When we had our land food injustice, people still talk about the farm tours they went on. And we're doing the farm tours now, so that that getting people-- this is a college town. People spend a lot of time in their heads.
  • [00:37:28.63] But when we've been able to engage their bodies, have them touch the soil digging a crater, touch the soil in a farm tour, it makes a difference, a lasting difference in how they see the world.
  • [00:37:43.46] JANE PACHECO: I know lots of our former board members and ICPJ stalwart volunteers have talked about putting a face on an issue. And that's a pivotal piece of all of the works of the task force as, I think, as I have seen it, really making this these issues personal, having a personal connection to whatever it is you're talking about. And you can't talk about with full authority, or even partial authority, if you have no connection to that. Are there any stories that--
  • [00:38:18.53] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Mm-hmm. So a couple. For me, the goal is empathy. The goal is deep empathy. And that can happen a lot of ways. Barbara Fuller, our founder, told the story of how what motivated her to get involved with this was seeing a picture of a Vietnamese child running away from a napalm attack and imagining that as her daughter. She at that time, didn't have a connection, a personal connection with anybody in Vietnam. She later went on to build those connections.
  • [00:38:50.92] But just seeing that image and that empathy that was in her heart motivated her to act. For me, one of the things in the racial justice work that we do that helps keep me motivated is the-- you know, I have friends my age who are African-American and who have kids my daughter's age, my son's age, who are black. I love these friends. And I love their kids. And I want their kids to have every opportunity that my daughter has. And I also don't want my daughter to get ahead because she had an unfair advantage because of the color of her skin as she's white.
  • [00:39:35.23] And so that personal relationship I have, that empathy with them, with my friends and their kids, is something that's in my heart when I'm dealing with police brutality, educational disparities, all this stuff. Educational disparities, that's an Ann Arbor, right? It's one of these heady, academic things. But for me, it's I want this kid to have a fair shot. I want Miles to have a fair shake. I want Abyssinia to have a fair shake. I want Luis to have a fair shake.
  • [00:40:05.02] So that's something that's in my own life. One of the things we've done also on this sense of empathy is we do a welfare simulation, a poverty simulation. In the 1990s when the Clinton era welfare reforms were going through was when we started this. And it started because people kept saying it's like, ah, those people on welfare, why don't they just get a job? Well, a group of welfare recipients in Missouri said, well, we're going to build a simulation of our real lives, so you can understand. I can tell you what we're going through. But I'm going to give you here's how we start the month. Here's how much money is in the bank. Here's the job I've got to get to. And we're going to have you go through a simulated month of this.
  • [00:40:47.69] We got the rights to do that simulation. We've taken it around the state to educators, to social workers, to lawyers. And it's amazing how much their eyes are open and their empathy, that connection. Because that empathy is built by saying, wow, I didn't know it was so hard. I didn't know there were so many barriers. And it's been a tremendous, tremendous eye opener for people.
  • [00:41:19.91] As we go with the issues that we're facing today, the rise of Islamophobia since September 11th, the Black Lives Matter piece, one of the pieces that I'm really working to find ways to do is to keep building those relationships, those intentional relationships. I mean, it's one thing to have a Muslim co-worker. It's one thing to have a black kid in your kid's class. It's another thing to have a relationship of love to know what happens to this kid is important to me.
  • [00:41:57.12] And one of the things I'm hoping we'll be able to build out is ways to really get those relationships built in a more deeper way. A lot of times, we focus on it's about understanding. It's about dialogue. There's that too. I want people to understand each other. It sounds a little bit cheesy. But I also want people to love each other. Because I think that's what's going to motivate people to take risks for each other and to really do the hard work of sacrifice for each other.
  • [00:42:35.14] JANE PACHECO: OK, I think at this point, Matt, you can cut this out too. Are we coming to a conclusion? Do we want to talk about interfaith at all? Do you want to talk about environment? I mean, you've hit REJ. And CROP has been covered.
  • [00:43:07.66] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Yeah, I do want to get to this piece a little bit too, the faithfulness and impact piece.
  • [00:43:12.94] JANE PACHECO: Yeah.
  • [00:43:17.06] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So I'll start with that-- and then go from there to interfaith.
  • [00:43:24.97] JANE PACHECO: OK.
  • [00:43:26.97] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So just a little bit of my own story of how I got to be involved with activism that's connected to, or is open to, religious, and faith, and spirituality. When I was in college, I looked around at the people. I saw just a tremendous burnout rate. Like between freshman and senior year, people were burning out left and right. And then I looked at the other community groups that were in central Iowa. And all the activists that had been involved in the 60s and 70s, most of them were gone. But some of them were still hanging around.
  • [00:44:12.13] And the ones that I saw that were still hanging around tended to be people who were part of a faith community or had a faith practice. And I picked up on that. It helped me realize that there was something about that that seemed to be a tonic against despair. And seeing that in the people who had persevered in their work for social justice and their work for peace was part of my own personal path to becoming Quaker.
  • [00:44:52.33] And I asked somebody about this. I asked Father Frank Cordero from the Des Moines Catholic Worker, who is a very active plowshares activist. He went on to military bases where there were nuclear weapons. And he would do symbolic disarming of them or things like that. And I asked him once, well, OK, Father Frank, you broke onto the base. You poured your blood on the warhead. Did it make a difference? And what Father Frank told me is that for him, he felt called by God to bear that witness against those nuclear weapons.
  • [00:45:37.84] And the impact, whether or not it made a difference, in some ways that wasn't his responsibility. His responsibility was to be faithful to this call from God. And what I see in the interfaith community, the ICPJ community, a lot of the people have been able to stick around through some pretty long struggles, where victory seems a long way off, what I see is that deep faithfulness. They have a concern for justice, a concern for peace, that's on their heart. And they are being faithful to that. And they're in it for the long haul.
  • [00:46:24.33] Of course, the flip side of that is if I'm going to have integrity when I ask our members for donations, when I ask our partner congregations for contributions, when I do any of that to keep that so that we can be faithful I need to be able to, with integrity, say we're going to put your money to good use and that we are being as rigorous as we can be about impact, about effectiveness. And sometimes the path to that is clear.
  • [00:47:12.07] Right now, the county is looking at potentially putting affordable housing on a piece of property they own. In the short term, I can see what the path to effectiveness is and what we measure. Do we get affordable housing on that side or not? But back to those root causes, that root cause of inequality and segregation, fighting that root cause battle, that's a much longer thing. And we need to continue to be faithful to that root cause struggle and also identify, here are the shorter term campaigns where we can see impact and effectiveness.
  • [00:48:04.95] You invited me to say a little bit about interfaith. One of things-- I was just thinking about this today. After we finish this, I'm going to send out an email to all our congregations trying to get speaking gigs, guest preaching or something, about the Charleston issue, the Charleston shootings and trying to figure out, OK, if I were invited by a synagogue, how would I handle that? I'm not Jewish. One of the things I love about this job is I have my own faith tradition. I have my own faith practice that's deeply important to me. But I still get to learn, and value, and cherish all these other things, so the teachings from Judaism about we're all created in the image of God-- I don't know the Hebrew for it. But if I'm invited to a synagogue, I'll practice it, right?
  • [00:48:45.78] You know, that is so powerful. Back to the faithfulness thing, this teaching from the sayings of our fathers, the [INAUDIBLE] of it is not ours to finish the task. It's not for us to finish the task. But neither are we free not to take it up. That's a powerful teaching about the struggle for justice is longer, it's bigger than any of us. But that doesn't mean we can back down. These are great teachings. And I love being able to learn from that.
  • [00:49:12.39] JANE PACHECO: And share it.
  • [00:49:13.41] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: And share it and have others share it. I can share it because people have shared it with me. And demographically, one of the things that-- I'm gonna let you turn the table, so I get too much-- Matt, you can edit that one out, edit that paper turning over.
  • [00:49:36.95] Demographically, one of the things that people are seeing is that fewer and fewer people are affiliating with religious institutions. And they are actively, in some cases very actively, anti-institutional religion. And I think part of that is because they're seeing hypocrisy. They're seeing just empty forms. They're not seeing anything of value there. My job isn't to support or oppose institutional religion. But there are these teachings that are in the faith traditions that anybody can benefit from.
  • [00:50:13.63] I think whether you're Jewish or not, that teaching that we're called to do this work, but it's bigger than us, is a useful teaching. In my tradition, which comes out of Christianity, this teaching that-- I've been thinking with the Charleston stuff. There's a saying from the Apostle Paul paraphrased, there's all this good stuff I want to do. But I don't do it. There's all this nasty stuff. I don't want to do it. But I still do it. When we're talking about implicit bias, like when I'm thinking I have some these racial biases in me, I don't want them to affect my behavior. But they do.
  • [00:50:53.14] What that saying from the Christian traditions, that speaks to my condition. That's a powerful thing for these times now. So I think even as religious affiliation is waning, I still think people respect the wisdom of these ancient traditions. And there's still a space for people, whether they're religious or not, to share their deepest motivations, to come together across differences, to learn together, and to work together.
  • [00:51:24.92] We have the bit of the interview with Russ Fuller yesterday. One of the things that amazed me. He talked about how he as a Protestant clergy person had never met the local Catholic clergy until they were standing shoulder to shoulder at a civil rights picket outside of city hall. They came together out of a shared sense of justice. This shared concern united them across what at that time was a huge, huge difference.
  • [00:51:55.73] JANE PACHECO: The early 60s.
  • [00:51:56.97] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Early 60s, Protestants and Catholics didn't talk to each other. And there was an opportunity where they were also able to share not just their social concern, but what led them there. I think that ability to bring people together across their differences, honor what brings them there, honor their deepest felt values, the teachings that inspire them and motivate them and challenge them, that is still absolutely vital work. And just like activists like Father Frank Cordero in Des Moines, or [INAUDIBLE] here are sustained through that faith practice, through that spirituality, I think we need that if we're going to be able to keep people going after Charleston and Trayvon Martin are out of the headlines and we're on to the next thing. We need those traditions, those practices that will sustain us for the long haul and bring us together.
  • [00:53:04.71] JANE PACHECO: Additionally though, I think it's important to note that the interfaith in Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, when you mentioned bringing people together building bridges of folks from faith traditions, but also not from faith traditions. And I think that there is maybe if not a misperception, but maybe a misunderstanding about that just because the word is in the name. I mean, can you speak to you a little bit about the breadth of faith traditions or non-faith traditions that ICPJ works with?
  • [00:53:42.12] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So for me, interfaith is an all of the above category. And so it includes the organized religions, where people are involved, whether it's Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Unitarian. It's a long list. And you [INAUDIBLE] making lists. Some people will be upset, because I didn't include them, pagan. There's a lot on there. But also from our very early days, one of our earliest members was Jean Converse, who is and was avowedly secular and not a theist. She wasn't religious.
  • [00:54:24.69] But she found a home. She found a place within ICPJ. And so what I say is if your faith is that a better world is possible, that peace is possible, that justice is possible, then you have a home in ICPJ. You are welcome. That's part of who we are.
  • [00:54:42.81] JANE PACHECO: I hear a lot of folks tell me that they found a like-minded community when they found ICPJ. And that is interesting to me. Because they are not talking about they share the same faith tradition. They're talking about they share the same goals of peace and justice for humanity.
  • [00:55:02.73] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Right.
  • [00:55:02.93] JANE PACHECO: Yeah.
  • [00:55:08.64] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Absolutely. And that is the beauty of the vision of ICPJ. The challenge of the vision, that goal to be interfaith, that goal to be inclusive is always pushing us out into new territory. How do we make our community feel that way for not just white, Christian, Jewish, Unitarian, secular people, but how do we make it feel that way for people of different ages, different racial groups, different immigration statuses?
  • [00:55:44.95] So I'm a white, male Christian. There's things that I do that I don't even get that they're a white thing, or a Christian thing, or whatever, until somebody tells me. Like, well, you know, Chuck, for a Jew, we wouldn't talk about it that way. You know, Muslims would look at it this way.
  • [00:56:06.19] JANE PACHECO: Or even as a woman--
  • [00:56:07.40] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: As a woman--
  • [00:56:07.77] JANE PACHECO: --I would never have said that.
  • [00:56:09.86] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Right. Coming out of the predominately white peace movement of the 60s, there's a lot of just the food we eat that's not the food that you necessarily have if you're at Brown Chapel, a black church. So like how we build our community, we need to keep reflecting. What are the things that we do that will help more, and more, and more people feel welcome? It's like trying to make my family feel welcome for holiday dinner. It's not always easy.
  • [00:56:52.24] JANE PACHECO: And it's never done.
  • [00:56:53.76] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: And it's never done. Somebody'll think the turkey is too cooked. And somebody will think it should have cooked longer. Whatever it is, it's the work we have to keep challenging ourselves to do, keep extending the table, keep welcoming more and more people to the circle.
  • [00:57:11.01] JANE PACHECO: So one of the reasons that we are having these interviews is we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of this organization. 50 years is a long time. And we have a timeline. And we have some historical perspective. Can you build on where we've come from? Where we are now? Where we're hoping to go into the future?
  • [00:57:39.41] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: I still think it's amazing that what started as just a couple of people around Barbara Fuller's dinner table 50 years ago is now this community institution, this beloved, important, vital community institution. And I think we have a strong legacy to build on about being the ones to speak up for peace, being the ones to speak up for justice, being the ones to bring people together when there are things in the community that divide us.
  • [00:58:13.17] And we have a tremendous challenge of building that out for the next 50 years of reaching out to new constituencies, reaching out to new generations, continuing to become more diverse and inclusive. But here's the thing. I can point to so many ways that ICPJ has benefited the community in just my 10 years here, ways that we've been at the leadership to improve inclusion, improve respect. And there's still a lot of work to do.
  • [00:59:03.21] JANE PACHECO: We're going to edit that out, Matt. We're going to start again. We have a fan going in the back.
  • [00:59:12.06] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: Let's take a pause and go back to that.
  • [00:59:14.46] JANE PACHECO: I'll just tell Matt. OK, Matt, we're going to start here. This is the continuation from Chuck's there's still a lot of work to do.
  • [00:59:27.34] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: There's still a lot of work to do. We are still a community with racial inequality. We are still a community with income inequality. We are still a world where there is too much poverty and too much violence. And these problems aren't going to be solved if we sit on our hands. They're going to be solved, because people roll up their sleeves. They get involved. And here in Washtenaw County, ICPJ is the place where people can roll up their sleeves and get involved and make a difference.
  • [00:59:59.02] JANE PACHECO: Great. Well, thank you.
  • [01:00:02.15] CHUCK WARPEHOSKI: So one other little vignette to add in. We can edit this in either to the racial economic justice piece, when I was talking about what that task force had done. I think that's probably the place to do it.
  • [01:00:15.76] One of the things that people don't realize is right now we have this very vibrant Ann Arbor Community Reads Partnership with the library, the university, and other institutions. The first Ann Arbor Reads was one that Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice organized. Back 15 years ago or so, when Nickel and Dimed came out by Barbara Ehrenreich, our racial economic justice task force realized this is a really important book. We want people throughout the community to read it. So we reached out to the library. They ordered us a bunch of copies. And we did the first Ann Arbor Community Reads.
  • [01:00:53.26] Now, the next year, this Community Reads thing was gaining legs. The University of Michigan got involved with it too. And when they tell the story, it starts with the University of Michigan got involved. But there's a prehistory. And that was the first Ann Arbor Community Reads that Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice and the Ann Arbor District Library put together to read Nickel and Dimed, so that people would again, build some of that empathy, build some of that understanding of what people who are living in poverty, working their low wage jobs are really going through.