By Terah Clifford
While the time we spent with CASP (Community Alliance for Safety and Peace) in Salinas was short, it proved valuable nonetheless. I was reminded of how important face to face contact is when establishing relationships; these strong relationships lead to a strong foundation from which to build community impact. It was so inspiring to see so many influential people in the community from all walks of life who were willing to come to a 7 am meeting to talk and strategize about how to protect their city. Local government, law enforcement, nonprofit organizers, and representatives from churches all came together to show their support. I think this meeting was especially important given the recent tragedies that occurred in Gilroy and other cities across the nation. It is a scary time, so it is more important than ever to come together in solidarity.
After the meeting, I enjoyed hearing from Jose Arreola, the director of CASP, about the vision behind launching CASP and what its purpose is. He shared that their organization is unique in that it is a group of people who have come together based on common values rather than common ideologies. While ideologies can change, values rarely do, and they provide a stronger anchor. Jose and the other panel members pointed out that it has not always been smooth sailing for the organization. They have had their fair share of difficult times, but ultimately they are always able to come back to their shared values and rebuild from there. I continued to reflect on the idea of focusing on values over ideology all throughout the week because I think these few words would have a profound impact if people actually lived them out. What would our organizations, churches, schools, or our bipartisan political system look like if we focused on the things that bring us together instead of continually harping on the things that draw us apart? While I know that there are many irreconcilable ideologies in our various systems, we all ultimately just want to do what is best for our communities and families. I think taking the time to slow down and recognize that irrefutable fact both in ourselves and in each other shows people that we have more in common than we might think.
Jose also mentioned finances, always an important topic. He pointed out that while money can often prove to be an issue for community-based collaborations, in this case, their lack of funding actually draws the organizations closer together and does not push them farther apart. While we all laughed a little when he said that money only brings people together as long as the money lasts, it is unfortunately often true. He said that the lack of funding means that every member of CASP is only there because they want to be, and so it is truly a “Collaboration of the willing.” Despite the lack of financial incentive, or perhaps because of it, CASP is doing great things in Salinas, and I think it is a model that could benefit many cities who want to follow their example.