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The OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology of Fayetteville (Washington County) began its work as a traditional peace advocacy organization before moving into local community engagement linked to state, national, and global networks. The organization’s mission is as follows: “OMNI Center educates, empowers and connects, for a world that is nonviolent, sustainable and just.” The OMNI Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The OMNI Center’s founders were James R. (Dick) Bennett and Dana Copp. When Bennett retired from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville in 1998, after a forty-year career as a professor of English, he wanted to start a peace organization and change the world. Copp agreed to help, and in the spring of 2001, they set up an office in the basement of the Presbyterian Student Ministry. Neither had previously worked with nonprofits. Bennett published a newsletter, and Copp obtained furniture. They named the group the OMNI Center to include everything and everybody. Bennett originally called it “OMNI Center for Peace and Justice,” but because he wanted the local Sierra Club to link up, he added “and Ecology” to the name. That encouraged OMNI to see environment as one key to peace.
Following the September 11, 2001, attacks and the subsequent American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, many people flocked to OMNI because it offered some way to register protest against the wars. From 2001 to 2006, OMNI organized to demand that the American government change course. OMNI held protests and developed a range of educational activities, some still going on today. Open Mic for Peace and Video Underground started in 2001. Since 2001, OMNI has organized a local Hiroshima Nagasaki Commemoration that honors the dead from all wars, especially those who died in the atomic bombings; this event had been going on since the 1970s, sponsored by other peace and justice groups, and OMNI regards it as a strong link to Fayetteville’s peace history. In 2004, OMNI began a collaboration with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization for social justice and peace, to hold an “Arkansas Peace & Justice Heroes Awards” that recognized social change advocates working quietly in the shadows all over the state. The program continued until 2012.
By 2006, strain was showing in the peace community. That year, OMNI held its final major protest against the Iraq War. In 2007, Melanie Dietzel and Gladys Tiffany became co-presidents, and, in 2013, Tiffany became executive director, which became a paid position in 2012. OMNI leaders took stock of the frustration and, in 2013, began a new strategic plan that features OMNI as an “action incubator” that fosters public dialogue, develops leaders, and builds a movement. Activities include youth leadership programs (OMNI Youth), a low-power radio station (97.3 FM), activist training workshops, vegetarian potlucks, women’s support groups, worker cooperative development, movie screenings, book studies, and community collaborations such as the Civil Rights Roundtable that works for civil rights for a diverse range of people. OMNI also fiscally sponsors projects such as TriCycle Farms, Seeds That Feed, Living Earth Ark Food Forest, the Goddess Festival, and others.
For additional information:OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology. http://omnicenter.org/ (accessed September 30, 2014).
OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology Records. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Gladys Tiffany OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology
Last Updated 11/14/2014
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