Since 1992, the social justice organization Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice has been sponsoring speakers, peace activities and forums within the Manhattan and K-State communities.
Brenda Mayberry, co-coordinator of MAPJ, got her start in the organization after being involved in an offshoot organization focused on campaigning for a living wage in Manhattan.
“It’s a varied group of different people bringing in different viewpoints,” Mayberry said. “I’m more for equal rights for women and pay issues.”
Mayberry said she describes MAPJ as a fluid and responsive organization, where members think ahead and look forward at different issues within the community, nation and world.
Usually, something sticks out to mobilize the group. Recently, it was the American Civil Liberties Union report about racial profiling. On campus, MAPJ has recently worked with the Black Student Union to raise awareness about this issue.
Though MAPJ does not usually just get its news from mainstream media, some of its campaigns are focused on current events. According to Mayberry, however, there is no political or religious orientation within MAPJ.
“We have Libertarians, we have Democrats, we have Republicans, and across the faith board we have Mennonites, Presbyterians, Lutherans and a Buddhist,” Mayberry said.
MAPJ supports a sister city, El Papaturro (located in Suchitoto, El Salvador), in different ways. Financially, support for El Papaturro is inserted into MAPJ’s budget each year. Pastors for Peace, located in El Salvador, makes trips to Manhattan and visits about their mission and how MAPJ has helped them.
MAPJ works together with Pastors for Peace, as well as other local justice and peace organizations, to share speakers with the Manhattan community. Eric Seitz, a speaker coming Wednesday, Feb. 25 from Hawaii, is set to discuss civil rights.
Leo Rosenberg, graduate student in political science, got involved in MAPJ after meeting others who were interested in problems of government and other civic issues.
“Social capital is what drives democracy, so there is a crisis if people are not involved in community and are not participating,” Rosenberg said. “Bystander mode in democracy is very dangerous.”
One of MAPJ’s goals is to levy against bystander mode, the phenomenon of a group of people witnessing wrongdoing yet staying inactive. One way it does so is by bringing information about different social issues to the public.
On its website MAPJ said that members want to “develop leadership and assist in creating the next generation of social activists.”
“Personally for me, a social activist is a person who is passionate enough to be involved in a particular social issue,” Mayberry said.
MAPJ’s website provides links to other progressive organizations in Manhattan and Kansas, as well as nationwide and internationally-based organizations. One such link is to the Campaign for Nonviolence, a K-State campus-based organization.
Susan Allen, emeritus director of Nonviolence Education at K-State and instructor of sociology and anthropology, explained why MAPJ is not a common household name.
“Some people are just more socially aware and conscious than others,” Allen said. “Thank heavens for people who care enough about fairness, equality, peace and justice issues to devote their energy and resources to them. Manhattan is fortunate to have a venerable organization like MAPJ to educate us about how we can help make life better for everyone.”
To do this, MAPJ has hosted many events focused on social injustices. For instance, in the past, the organization presented the film “Invisible War,” which focused on the rise of violent sexual assault within the U.S. military. It has also highlighted immigration issues by bringing speakers in, in addition to hosting an annual health forum that presents the effects of Medicaid in government and on rural hospitals.
When it comes to the difference between MAPJ’s presence in the community and their presence on campus, Mayberry was quick to say, “We’re not college versus town; we’re everybody.”