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Angeles Solis

Maria de los Angeles Solis
is a labor union organizer with
Service Employees International Union.
Interview by Erika Boyd, May 2014 

            I believe that peace is inextricably linked to justice. It is difficult to achieve one without the other.  Inequalities interrupt peace, oppression smothers it.  Justice to me is speaking truth to power. Peace is when that truth is heard and acted upon.  Peace is loving oneself as we love others. Peace is appreciation and gratitude of the world and community around you.  Peace is respect of the world and community around for which you are grateful.  Peace is collective liberation - where the worlds interconnected struggles are understood as collective, no one is free until we are all free. ​That's peace to me.   

            Promotion of peace starts at home and on an individual level.  I believe it comes back to education.  If ignorance is understood as "not knowing", it is alleviated by education.  People fear in proportion to their ignorance. Fear interrupts love and relationship.  We need to promote the ability to love ourselves, and others just as much.  One of the best things a person trying to promote peace can do is the act of praxis.  Praxis is a dual approach to life - action followed by reflection. When a person makes it a habit to do so, life choices have more meaning. There are so many angles of political analysis for wannabe peacemakers alike- and it's often tempting and overwhelming to try to do all of them. That's not the way it should be done. Wannabe peacemakers are most effective when they identify their passions, skill-sets, and gifts, then apply them accordingly. Healing the world is a multifaceted nuanced process that peacemakers should engage in with thorough reflection of what calling they most identify as their own.

            There is no single road to knowing more about peace, but rather there are multiple pieces to the puzzle which contribute to one's understanding. One of the most valuable practices for a peace studies major is to develop the ability to look at peace through multiple lenses. It is helpful to be able to compare and contrast groups and eras of history seeking to achieve peace in strikingly different ways: the Black Panthers, the cultural-religious practices of Tibetan monks, labor unions, co-operative models for intentional communities, etc. Having the ability to understand and combine the layers of peace-making action will make one a well-rounded peace studies major.

            In my job as a labor union organizer, I do the opposite work of a social worker.  I agitate low-income workers who face injustices in their workplace, such as sexual harassment, low pay, discrimination, wage theft, and dangerous working conditions.  I do not solve their problems – that is for them to do.  I merely provide strategies and empowerment.  How does this lead to peace?  Empowerment brings peace.  Eliminating unfair practices allows for dignity, and workers stand a little taller each day.  This is how my work influences my perception of peace.  Empowerment precedes action that leads to peace and justice.  Peace will be truly felt when communities have the autonomy to give back where they could not have given before.