'Frank Gormlie started the [Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization], and his original mission statement was, 'We're eternally democratic, activist oriented, and we are for the protection of the environment, human rights, labor rights, civil rights, diversity, and tolerance," says Colleen Dietzel, co-owner of the Green Store and member of the Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization. On Monday, February 13, the organization will show a selection of films depicting activism in Ocean Beach and San Diego at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center. One of the films, Arlington West, is described on www.arlingtonwestfilm.com as "a 60-minute film presenting a 'temporary cemetery' in the sand, erected every Sunday by the Veterans for Peace...A flag draped coffin and over 1900 wooden crosses, affectionately placed in the beach, invites the public to honor the unacknowledged fallen U.S. soldiers and laments the cost of the war." Included in the footage are "83 interviews with soldiers and Marines en route to and returning from the war in Iraq, plus interviews with military families."
The Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization has assisted in staging local vigils for the Veterans for Peace. "We have done this at least a couple of times," says Dietzel. "During one event, the BBC was here doing a story about Bush."
Another film to be featured is the 12-minute Peace Out San Diego, shot and edited by Patty Mooney of local production company Crystal Pyramid Productions. "It's about the peace marches and vigils that took place in San Diego between 2002 and 2005," Mooney says. The film is mostly made up of footage and still shots set to the music of Peggy Watson, the Prince Myshkins, and Stephan Smith and includes "a chilling moment when a mother speaks in Spanish with a translator about how she learned of the death of her son by watching television and seeing him in the arms of an Iraqi."
Mooney participated in a protest against President Bush's inauguration last year. "In South America, when they protest the government, they go in the street and bang on pots and pans. Last year we did that and it was so much fun. This woman came out on her balcony from one of the condos and brought out a pot and pan and started banging."
Dietzel, whose interest in activism was sparked in the mid-1980s, describes what it means to be an activist: "Once you become a conscientious person, it's hard to ignore all the injustice in the world. Sometimes you feel frustrated. But I get a lot of people who say, 'Thank you, I'm glad you're still here.'" Dietzel hopes the films will educate and inspire others to get involved. "Frankly, we're all tired and we need help -- we're burned out, and [more activists] will lessen the load on people struggling with burnout. After the election it was very depressing."
"Initially this group [the Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization, founded in 2000] was formed to investigate and deter the growth and development of SeaWorld," says community activist Debora Greene. "We were concerned about the traffic in our community. We were in opposition to SeaWorld's ballot that went to the voters that they needed to do development and exceed the height limit because Shamu needed a better home. It was deceptive to the public -- what came along with that were new homes, the thrill ride, and hotels." Journey to Atlantis, which is a combination roller coaster and splashdown ride, is 95 feet tall.
Greene explains that the organization determines its actions based on issues currently facing the community. "There's a vacant lot at the corner of Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs owned by World Oil. They want to bring in another gas station, and we are in opposition of that." Concerned residents of the area will discuss the issue at both community and town hall meetings. "We don't want O.B. to become a satellite city. We want to maintain [its] charm and individuality," says Greene, who moved to Ocean Beach from Pacific Beach in 2000, the same year she joined the organization.
"To me, being an activist is about making something better," says Dietzel. "You could be getting a degree or trying to make more money; most people find a mate, get a job...and the world is falling apart! [Activism] is thinking about the community as a whole and not just about yourself." Even so, Dietzel notes, activism can be all-consuming. "I've been reflecting a lot lately, and all of my socializing is basically hanging out with friends from O.B. Grassroots, talking about issues, going to political films, lectures, benefits. Recently I was dating this man that I knew from 20 years ago that was, like, a normal person." Though Dietzel chose community involvement over pursuing the relationship, she says, "It was kind of nice to escape activism." -- Barbarella
"Movies on Local Activism in Ocean Beach and San Diego"
Monday, February 13
Ocean Beach Recreation Center
4726 Santa Monica Avenue