We, the members of the Board of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize are outraged and deeply saddened that yet another black life has been taken by police. We grieve with the families and friends of Manuel Ellis, George Floyd, and all victims of racial injustice. We fear for our nation. We commend and we support the peaceful protestors who line the streets of America demanding meaningful structural change, leading to true peace and justice for all.
We add our voices to all who condemn the appalling use of brutal force by law enforcement, to those who believe that all people not only deserve, but must have equal access to education, health care, respect, and a life lived without fear. We need our police officers to become PEACE officers.
We look to local leaders to guide us through these painful times, as Tacoma Peace Prize laureates have done in the past, among them Dawn Lucien, Thomas Dixon, David Alger, Melannie Cunningham, Willie Stewart – to name just a few.
We are proud of our affiliation with them and look to others like them to guide us in the quest for peace and racial justice. We believe that law enforcement (no, ALL of us) must be educated about violence, and we encourage all to read a powerful statement from Lutheran Bishop Richard Jaech.
Recognizing the importance of both global human rights and climate justice, the Board of Directors of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize (GTPP) proudly announces the selection of Marilyn Kimmerling as the 2020 GTPP Laureate.
Ms. Kimmerling believes in and works for worker rights, minority rights, human rights and finding peaceful solutions to conflict. Since climate change is already resulting in mass migrations and conflicts over land and resources, her work has grown to include climate justice.
Marilyn has been a community activist since the mid 1990’s. Two organizations where she had great impact were Jobs with Justice, where she served a term as Chair, and United for Peace of Pierce County where she was one of the major organizers.
Kimmerling is one of the founding members of the Tacoma chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as a member of 350 Tacoma and an active associate-member of Veterans for Peace. In 2017, she co-founded the current Tacoma branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, and she is currently active with the Save the Wetlands Behind TCC campaign. She is the chief organizer and writer of material for the “Raging Grannies” and their myriad performances. She is President of Radio Tacoma, having worked tirelessly on the successful FCC application for an FM license, and she has continued volunteering with them for six years. [Radio Tacoma is a low-power FM public access radio station, developed to serve Tacoma with opportunities for progressive groups, union members, minority groups, and local talent that might otherwise not be heard.]
Believing that the proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) storage/ refinery presented a regiona environmental and health threat, and having exhausted other means of opposition (for example, attending and speaking at numerous public meetings), and motivated by compassion and conviction, Marilyn and five others engaged in acts of civil disobedience, knowing they risked arrest. The risk was outweighed, they believed, by the plant’s potential danger and the treaty violation involved in its construction. They were indeed arrested, tried by jury, and exonerated on all counts.
In today’s world, the need for community activists is never-ending, and Marilyn continues to show up to build local and global community that is humane, compassionate, and just. On her own initiative for more than ten years, she held Soup Sundays in her home, an open house for all of Tacoma, to build community.
“Marilyn Kimmerling is the epitome of a human being working on behalf of others, and she possesses the “knowhow and do now” energy. Furthermore, she exudes a spirit of warmth and inclusiveness which is an inspiration to others. She is most worthy of the 2020 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize.”
Nancy Farrell, who nominated Ms. Kimmerling
The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, inspired by the Nobel Peace Prize, was founded in 2005 in order to honor local peacemakers and has been formally endorsed by the Pierce County Council and the Tacoma City Council. In Norway, partners of the GTPP include the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Norwegians Worldwide (the Norse Federation), the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialog, Bjørknes College, the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, the Nobel Peace Center, and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. Recipients of the Tacoma award are honored at a Laureate Recognition Banquet in the fall and are presented with a trip to Norway in December for the Nobel Peace Prize events.
EDUCATOR WILLIE C. STEWART SELECTED AS 2019 TACOMA PEACE LAUREATE
The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize is proud to announce that Willie C.
Stewart, Sr. has been selected as the 2019 Laureate. Mr. Stewart was
selected for his long-term service and ongoing commitment to the
community and Tacoma schools, particularly in the Lincoln District and
the Hilltop. As a practitioner of racial reconciliation, he has been a
consistent calming influence in situations involving racial friction or
A longtime public school educator, Willie became the first black
school principal in Tacoma history when he took on the role at Lincoln
High School in 1970. “He was able to diffuse many of the possible
‘riots’ on campus by engaging people in conversation that could lead to a
possible resolution or more peaceful ending,” wrote Linda Caspersen
(Lincoln Class of ’72) in a letter to the GTTP Board nominating him for
the Prize. “He had the innate ability to teach us to not look at color
as a dividing factor, but rather as a unique opportunity to appreciate
everyone as an individual and be part of a larger group.”
Mr. Stewart grew up in Texas where he picked cotton as a child,
attended high school, earned a B.A. at Texas Southern University, and
worked a series of odd jobs before eventually joining the army and
retiring as a colonel. He spent 36 years working for the Tacoma School
District as a teacher and administrator and sat on the Tacoma School
Board from 1999 to 2005 and remains heavily involved in local
organizations. He has served as the Coordinator for the Weekly Breakfast
for the Homeless since 1995. He’s also a member of the Tacoma Athletic
Commission, the Goodwill Industries Board, and the Boys & Girls
Clubs of South Puget Sound Board of Governors.
The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize recognizes and honors Peacemakers from
the Tacoma/Pierce County region. First awarded in 2005 during the
Centennial celebration of Norway’s independence, the award has its roots
in Norwegian-American culture. It’s founded on the idea that peace
For her exemplary work promoting racial reconciliation, the Board of Directors has selected Tacoma Resident Melannie Denise Cunningham as the 2018 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize Laureate.
“Melannie is a visionary, educator, community servant and consummate peace builder.”
Nominator Joanne Lisosky
Cunningham uses her years of knowledge, coalition building, and
strategic planning to host The People’s Gathering. It is an annual
conference which brings together business leaders, human resource
professionals, educators, and students to engage in frank conversations
about race. American society is moving backwards. Discussions to deny
individuals their rights are no longer behind closed doors. Cunningham
was inspired to encourage people to speak by a quotation from Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”
The People’s Gathering equips professionals with tools to use
existing policy to fight cultural stereotypes, institutional racism, and
discrimination in the workplace, instead of reinforcing them. The over
200 individuals that participate in the conference each year continue
the sometime difficult conversations about race and move the issue
forward in the greater Tacoma community.
Cunningham brings unwritten cultural knowledge back to Tacoma from
one of its fourteen Sister Cities, George, South Africa. She visits
George often. When apartheid policies were abolished, Cunningham saw a
perfect opportunity to build solidarity based on the commonalities
shared by American and South African cultures. South Africans needed to
bring communities together that are separated by race, gender and class.
U.S. communities, including Tacoma, face many of the same issues. Part
of her efforts involve her work with Women of Vision, a non-governmental
organization registered with the United Nations. Cunningham notes, “We
see ourselves in the faces of women of children that cry and feel just
like us.” Women of Vision brings together individuals from different
backgrounds to solve community problems. They empower women and girls to
make change. They improve the mind, body, and spirit. Cunningham brings
those discussions back to the Tacoma community through her service on
Tacoma Sister Cities Council and George, South Africa Committee.
Cunningham’s promotion of peace in Tacoma spans decades. In the late
1980s Cunningham organized the first citywide Martin Luther King Jr.
Celebration. In 2015 she spearheaded an effort that led to the City of
Tacoma to become the first city in the United States to accept the “Hate
Won’t Win” challenge.
As the Director of Multicultural Outreach and Engagement at Pacific
Lutheran University, Cunningham serves as a mentor to hundreds of
students of color that join the PLU community. There are few
administrators and faculty of color at PLU to serve as role models. She
explains, “It is necessary for students to experience teaching and
learning from people of multicultural backgrounds.” Students often
discuss problems with her, and she helps them strategically approach
problems and develop solutions.
Pennye Nixon thoughtfully responded to an inquiry about her work. “I
like to talk about poop.” Nixon explained that there are two precursors
to public health – clean water and sanitation – and that sanitation is
often forgotten about when assisting impoverished areas. As the Founder
and Director of Operations for Etta Projects, Nixon directs projects
that construct sanitation facilities and provide clean water in rural
Bolivian villages. These exceptional peacebuilding efforts are why the
Greater Tacoma Peace Prize (GTTP) was proud to announce the selection of
Pennye Nixon as the 2017 Laureate this evening, at the Etta Projects
13th Annual Auction.
In addition to providing clean water and sanitation, Etta Projects also trains women to become health workers in the villages. Nixon explained that the women are trained in groups and network across several villages. The training empowers women who never had a role that was valued in a village before. Health care workers provide basic care such as tending to wounds, prenatal care, and treating the common cold. They also work with clinics to ensure that individuals receive follow-up care. Nixon has seen attitudes in villages change overnight. When women are empowered, their status in the village increases.
Etta Projects began in 2003 out of a tragedy. Nixon’s daughter, Etta,
was a 16-year-old Rotary International Exchange Student. Nixon
mentioned that Bolivia was not Etta’s first choice but she embraced her
assignment anyway. Etta quickly became a favorite among locals. She
attended a wealthy high school in Bolivia but reached out to individuals
of lower classes. Nixon mentioned that Etta played soccer with a class
of people that her classmates deemed unworthy to associate with. She
also recounted a story of Etta saving a sloth from oncoming traffic in a
town square. Etta passed away tragically in a bus crash after only
three months in the country. However, her impact was so great that the
local government named a dining hall after Etta. The dining hall
provides food for the poor in the city that Etta embraced.
In 2009 Etta Projects shifted its focus from providing food to
constructing sanitation and water projects. They quickly added the
health worker training program. Nixon believes that sanitary conditions
and health care create conditions for peace. Stable communities create
conditions where individuals can progress and grow. Nixon notes, “Peace
is about contentment.” It is hard for individuals to be content when
they are fighting for their basic needs. Etta Projects recently added a
Community Transformation Center to further development in rural
villages. The center coordinates with NGOs and local officials to
continue to build infrastructure and access to resources in the
Recognizing the importance of reconciliation in peacemaking, the
Board of Directors of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize (GTPP) is proud to
announce the selection of Ms. Theresa Pan Hosley as the 2016 GTPP
Ms. Hosley was nominated by the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Tacoma
“for her initiative, persistence, and long-term leadership of Tacoma’s
Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation.”
The nominators related that “Her main strengths as a leader are her patience, soft yet firm touch, and her ability to listen. She is a manifestation of a peacemaker, promoting enduring reconciliation and harmony.”
The 2016 Laureate Recognition Banquet will be held on Thursday, September 22, when Ms. Hosley will receive a unique glass artwork (created especially for the GTPP by Tacoma’s Hilltop Artists), a certificate of commendation, a laureate medallion, and a trip for two to Oslo, Norway, to participate in “The Nobel Days,” events surrounding the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her name will be the 12th to be added to the GTPP perpetual plaque.
Thomas Dixon, the “voice of black Tacoma” for over thirty years and mentor to two generations of African-American civic leaders, has been a vital force in Tacoma’s 50-year drive for justice and diversity. As we continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, it is timely that we honor this leading figure in Tacoma’s non-violent struggle for racial and social equity.
Born the grandson of a slave in Georgia in 19,31, Tom remained in
Tacoma after completing military service at McChord Air Force Base in
1964. Two years later he became the first director of the Hilltop
Multi-Service Center and in 1968 became the inaugural executive director
of Tacoma’s new affiliate of the National Urban League, a position he
held for 34 years. As Tacoma Urban League executive director, Tom Dixon
worked assiduously for economic development, job training, social
services, and the general benefit of all Tacomans. But as a leading
black voice within black and multi-racial communities in Pierce County,
Tom was in a key position to advocate progressive change to a
conservative, predominately white city leadership; respond to an
outbreak of racial violence in the Mother’s Day Disturbance of 1969 with
a strong voice of non-violence and conciliation; and was a leading
figure in the formation of the Black Collective, a weekly gathering of
black civic leaders that continues today.
As influential as the Urban League was during this era of enormous
and often hard fought progress, Tom Dixon’s most lasting contribution
to Tacoma’s transformation since the 1960s may have been his work with
and place of influence within the Black Collective. From this rich and
dynamic source of human energy have emerged such influential civic
leaders as Harold Moss, Tacoma’s first black mayor; James Walton,
Tacoma’s first black city manager; Bil Dixon, Tacoma’s first black
female city council member; and current city council member Victoria
Woodards – all encouraged, supported, and mentored by Thomas Dixon.
Even today, at the age of 84, Tom Dixon continues his fight for
social and economic justice with a strong, influential voice in equity
efforts throughout the Pierce County area.
Nominated by William Lincoln, Norm Dicks, and Clare Petrich, Dawn Olson Lucien and her son Eric Olson have served our local community and our nation for over forty years, seeking in their respective careers community and international peace.
Dawn Lucien has merged the spirit and skills of advocate and conciliator – always civil, transparent, influential, and effective. In many ways she has been the conscience of the community. As district manager for Congressman Norm Dicks, she played a key role in the 1990 Puyallup Indian Land and Jurisdictional Claims settlement. In the mid-1980s, she was instrumental in bringing together the federal government, the Puyallup Tribe, the Port of Tacoma, the City of Tacoma and numerous local municipalities and private partners. In retirement Dawn maintains strong relationships with all parties and is an informal and meaningful advisor. She remains an advocate for the Pierce County Center for Dispute Resolution; she has been a tireless contributor to community-based efforts to develop a first-class graduate degree program in dispute prevention, management, and resolution at the University of Washington – Tacoma.
Eric Olson, Dawn’s son, is a 1969 graduate of Stadium High School and a 1973 graduate of the US Naval Academy. In a career of over 35 years, he rose to the rank of Admiral, the first Navy SEAL to be promoted to the four-star rank, and ultimately served as the leader of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOC). Twice decorated for personal valor in combat, Admiral Olson advocates for the “deeper understanding of the context of any conflict as a means to predict the effects of our actions” and he has been widely quoted for his statement that “we cannot kill our way to victory in today’s wars, so we must think our way to success.” Retired in 2011, Admiral Olson remains a thoughtful leader for a more balanced military force, one that considers linguistic and cultural expertise as essential. In 2012, as keynote speaker at Portland District Rotary ’s “Peace Is Possible” conference, he reminded listeners: “Going to war is a political decision, not a military decision.” He currently teaches a graduate course at Columbia University focusing on the challenges of “turning down the heat” in a time of global friction.
Together, Dawn Lucien and Eric Olson have been formidable advocates for nonviolent solutions to difficult conflicts. It is our honor to recognize these lifelong Tacomans as the 2014 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize laureates.
Not one, but two respected members of the Tacoma community nominated Sallie Shawl for the 2013 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, which is indicative of the high regard in which she is held throughout our community for her continued peacebuilding efforts. Among many other achievements, Shawl founded a local chapter of the international group, Jewish Voice for Peace, which promotes a U.S. foreign policy based on peace, democracy, human rights, and respect for international law. She led the organizations Tacoma Arabs, Jews, and Others (TAJOS) and Palestinian-Israeli Peace Endeavors (PIPES).
Through the Ground Zero Center for Non-Violent Action, she participated in protests against nuclear weapons at the Bangor Naval Base in Kitsap County. She formed the groups People for Peace, Justice, and Healing and United for Peace of Pierce County, and she was instrumental in the inauguration of the South Sound Peace and Justice Center.