Working toward peace
Remy Pontes ’17 spoke about his work with Masschusetts Peace Action
Remy Pontes ’17 spent his summer working toward one goal: peace. Starting at the end of the spring, Pontes worked as a legislative intern for Massachusetts Peace Action (MPA). MPA is an affiliate of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots funding campaign. According to their website, “For over 50 years, Peace Action has worked for an environment where all are free from violence and war.”
“Massachusetts Peace Action has their fingers in a whole range of conflicts and ideas that they like to tackle over the course of the summer,” Pontes said in an interview with the Justice. As an intern, Pontes was involved in a wide range of tasks including fundraising, event planning and tracking legislation.
More specifically, one of Pontes’ main focuses over the summer was working on the nuclear disarmament campaign. He worked to gather and write literature on the subject, talking with experts and getting them to contribute. Pontes worked closely with Jonathan King, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology biology professor and chair of the MPA nuclear abolition working group.
Pontes was also heavily involved in working with a group focused on prioritizing the federal budget to make it more community based. One of the main discussions was surrounding the idea of overspending in the military. Pontes asserted that many Massachusetts residents are unaware of how their tax dollars are being spent, “so I worked a lot with the campaign trying to basically write out this literature in a way that it actually connects with people.”
The culmination of Pontes summer internship was the event he planned, “Boston Remembers,” which took place on Aug 9, Nagasaki Day. Though in past years, the focus has solely been on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for this event, Pontes noted the importance of the year led them to have a more overall focus on systemic violence. “Nagasaki Day … also happened to be the 2nd anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. So this year, because it’s an election year, and because there is a lot of racial and political tension, we also tried to incorporate gun violence and other issues into the day,” Pontes said. The day began with a procession from the First Church of Boston. The event included speakers from the Black Lives Matter community, church officials and Chaplain Clementina “Tina” Chéry from the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. There were also Japanese dancers and folk singers.
Pontes’ work toward peace won’t end with the summer. Last spring, he founded Brandeis Peace Action, an on campus club officially affiliated with MPA. Tufts University, Emmanuel College, Holy Cross University and Harvard University also have Peace Action chapters. “I worked closely with the Tufts interns so we’re going to try and co-host some events,” Pontes said.
The club has the freedom to focus on any peace related issues, though Pontes is hoping to continue his work on nuclear disarmament and military spending reduction. He also spoke about hopes to touch on issues like divestment and Islamophobia. When considering the focus on the club Pontes said, “We’re really trying to make this a collective and focus on issues that really reside with everybody.”
Pontes asserts the partnership the club has with MPA is essential to success. “If we want to get something done — if we want to focus on a certain issue, if we want to protest, if we want to start a campaign, if we want to have a fundraiser, sign petitions — whatever it is — I can contact a representative from MPA. … We have all of these resources at our disposal,” he explained.
Currently Pontes is busy planning the upcoming semester for Brandeis Peace Action, which, he hopes, will start with the club getting officially by Brandeis. Next, he hopes to organize guest speakers and event collaborations with other Brandeis clubs.
Pontes has high hopes for the club’s continuation after his graduation, but right now, he’s focused on making a difference to individual students. “Even by just coming to one meeting I’m hoping that people kind of get something out of it and learn something new that kind of urges them to do their own research and opens their eyes to new issues that may not be talked about in the media,” he said. In explaining the draw of Brandeis Peace Action, Pontes explained, “You’d be involved in a national organization with resources. You’ll get some foreign policy experience; you get to talk about subjects that you might not get to talk about in class. You’ll get to meet a lot of cool people who share your vision for social justice.”
Pontes wants students to realize the ability they have to create change. “The everyday person doesn’t understand how much power they have. So if we start moving as a collective, we can create change,” he concluded.