Local activist works to replace violence with words
One of the earlydefining moments that led Diane Suzuki-Brobeck on her path as a crusader for peace and justice in the Chico area happened in the early 1990s at a local concert when a man made a sexist, racist, derogatory comment toward her.
As a third-generation Japanese-American, she had experienced these types of discriminatory situations before, but this incident was different.
“I decided that I would address it because I had already made a stand that I was going to address these kind of things if they happened,” she said. “I went over and said, ‘ ‘You need to apologize to me.’”
She calmly began asking him questions, wondering where this prejudice came from, and found out that this man had a history of racism in his family and was fighting his own negative emotions in his personal life.
“That’s how it works sometimes,” she said. “Somebody’s not happy and they’re just going to throw some shit out there and I happened to be the recipient of it.”
The conversation that night lasted hours and it sparked Suzuki-Brobeck to start thousands of other conversations. In 1997, she started the Beyond Violence Alliance, an organization that provides workshops and discussions on feminism and racism as well as all other issues of injustice and inequality.
The alliance’s workshops have been implemented in most local public schools, as well as at Butte College and Chico State, and have made their way to local government agencies and countless community organizations. The programs provide interactive, experiential activities; it’s not Suzuki-Brobeck just speaking for an hour at the front of a classroom. Instead, she gets people involved by talking about their identities and their views on injustice while exploring the roots of violence and the roots of peace in a safe space.
“We’re trying to shed light and raise consciousness and raise awareness and go a little deeper,” she said. “We talk about roots and layers to try to find out where it comes from and where we need to go.”
One of the things Suzuki-Brobeck constantly reminds people about in her workshops is that these issues still exist, even if some people may not think they do.
“These injustices, they’re sort of hidden in our society; people can deny it, but they’re not dead,” she said. “Even if there’s one person who feels hopeless or helpless, then we still have work to do.”
Besides coordinating the Beyond Violence Alliance, Suzuki-Brobeck helps fundraise and coordinates events for the Chico Peace and Justice Center, and she’s also been a frequent performer, alongside her musician husband, Jim Brobeck, at Butte Environmental Council’s annual Endangered Species Faire.
When Suzuki-Brobeck is not leading discussions on important societal issues, she’s providing a space for others to do so via her biweekly radio show, One World Music, on KZFR 90.1 FM. For roughly 15 years, she’s been sharing contemporary world music while also featuring local guests who are making a difference in the community and throughout the world. Additionally, she helps organize the station’s annual Touch of Chico massage and bodywork fundraising event.
Suzuki-Brobeck moved to Chico from Los Angeles in 1976, when she was 23, and says that she has been inspired to be an advocate for so many local issues because of her love of this community and the opportunities it provides.
“If you love the town,” she said, “you’re given the opportunity to improve it and to make it better and preserve it.”
Malama MacNeil, a local health and massage practitioner who’s known Suzuki-Brobeck for more than a decade, praised her friend’s commitment.
“She’s the most unfailingly joyful person I know. She just finds the good in people,” she said. “She’s somebody I look to and say, ‘ ‘Wow, I’m so glad someone like that is in my community and in my life.’”