BANGOR, Maine — A month after they began to move their headquarters a few blocks over from Park Street, members of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine had twice as good a reason for celebration this weekend.
Sunday marked the grand opening of the center’s new location at 96 Harlow St. and its annual commemoration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, one day before the official holiday.
“It’s very empowering to have events like this, to bring people together and acknowledge the power we have together,” said Orono resident Ilze Petersons, the center’s program coordinator for the last 16 years. “MLK was one of those people who connected the dots between racism, poverty and militarism, which are things we still struggle with.”
This is the center’s sixth location in Bangor in its 22-year history. The grand opening is the culmination of a relocation effort that began in June.
“We’ve been in the same location for the last 12 years, but our rent went up, so we weren’t able to continue in that space,” Petersons said. “But that led to us finding this space, which we’re delighted to be in because it’s more visible and a little bigger for us.
“It’s also a plus locationwise, because we have a weekly peace vigil in front of the federal building, which is just down the road, and in August we have a Hiroshima commemoration, which is just across the street at Peirce Park.”
Two of the wrinkles at the new location are installation of a handicapped-accessible bathroom and the introduction of a Tuesday brown bag lunch reading group series featuring short essays.
Petersons said about 40 people from nearby and not-so-nearby towns and cities turned out for the open house, vegetarian potluck supper and commemoration Sunday afternoon.
“We had people from Dover-Foxcroft, Belfast, Ellsworth, Deer Isle, Solon, Orono, Old Town and Bangor-Brewer,” she said. “We were really delighted, because we also had representatives from the Sierra Club, the Maine Peoples’ Alliance, Food AND Medicine, and other groups.”
One of those people from outlying areas participating in the series of meetings held before the supper was Ryan Parker, a vegetable farmer from Newport who talked about global climate change.
“Farmers count on things happening a certain way every year at different times, and we just don’t know what’s going on anymore because things are changing,” he said.
“Ryan is an example of each person working on their own particular issue and connecting the dots and how they’re connected to peace, justice and sustainability,” Petersons said.