Creating the Next Vision for Peace
KAZU HAGA: One of the projects that I’m kind of most humbled and honored to have participated in during my time doing Kingian nonviolence work is a high school in Chicago, called North Lawndale College Prep. This was a high school that’s located in a community that’s struggled with a lot of violence, a lot of poverty. About five years ago, a science teacher there named Tiffany Childress Price became a Kingian nonviolence trainer. She talked with the students and the administration there, and they really invested in Kingian nonviolence at that high school. Within the first year of their programing, they had a 70% reduction in violence, and over four years, it’s gone up to a 90% reduction.
It’s really by investing in their student leaders and the faculty investing in them that they really had their turnaround. You know they started the project in 2009, which was also a year when we saw more murders in the streets of Chicago than U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The fact that this school was able to transform the culture of that campus, of their two campus’ almost overnight, while the rest of Chicago was dealing with these increased rates of violence. I think is a powerful story that I don’t understand why stories like that aren’t in the news.
DAWN HANEY: Yes. Let’s build on what is working and what is successful. It sounds like they did some training particularly with student leaders around Kingian nonviolence and maybe some of the principles. Was it skill-based training, or philosophy?
KAZU HAGA: You know the Kingian training is more theory-based, and so what that school did was every year they’d get their group of student leaders to become trained as youth-trainers in Kingian nonviolence. Every other year, they’d train their entire faculty. Then throughout the year, student leaders are running programs for the rest of the students, and they really invested fully into the philosophy. They also added training for restorative justice circles, and things like that; they have a lot of creative programs that they’ve put into place.
They’ve invested in peace. Peace isn’t just going to happen as a default. You have to really invest in it, and they have really invested in it from the top down, bottom up. They were really successful there.
KAZU HAGA: I spent a few days in New York at a retreat, creating a vision for tomorrow and figuring out processes for where we go in to the world, into our communities. Visions to help us identify and articulate a collective meta-narrative of what our vision is for tomorrow. If you can’t articulate that vision, you can’t build a framework or strategy to get to it.
So often, like in Occupy, we get caught up in arguing over and debating over tactics. Tactics are what you use to get to a larger goal and as a movement, as Occupy, we never articulated what that goal was and what that vision is of that world we are trying to create. So arguing over tactics before we have articulated a vision, or even some strategic goals is putting the cart in front of the horse. I think it is really important for us to be really clear about what the vision of the world it is we are trying to create.
One of the things I have been thinking about a lot is, when we say vision, I am not even talking about what a world could look like in five years if we win our next campaign. But what does our world look like 500 years from now? And being very clear about that, really being able to visualize it, because it is a long term struggle. Nothing is going to change overnight. I think we need to have the audacity to have that big vision and really be strategic about how we get there.
DAWN HANEY: I feel like I learned this from Grace Lee Boggs when she was here, a couple of years ago now in Berkeley. As we do the work, we actually build possibilities for new visions to even be possible. So then it is both setting up the 500 year plan but then as we get ten years into it being like ‘Oh wow, there’s whole other possibilities we didn’t even see.’
Just like this young woman you were talking about. Her 500 year plan before and after realizing there were already other communities that didn’t experience levels of violence that she did in her community – it just creates new possibilities for us to even imagine.
KAZU HAGA: Yes, and at the East Point Peace Academy, this organization I created to do this work, we are actually starting the process of writing up a 200 year vision and we will probably invest a year or so to just gathering information to write up that vision and will probably update it every so often. I think we really need to think that far ahead.
DAWN HANEY: I would love to see that as you guys develop it. I think we are in a kind of similar moment as Buddhist Peace Fellowship, seeing that we need to be planning really long term. Opening up the vision and doing that in a very collective way where a lot of peoples voices get heard and a lot of people get to help build that vision. We do some work and then see what vision is possible next.
Photo credit: Artis Rams
Kazu Haga is a nonviolence trainer and founder of the East Point Peace Academy in Oakland, California. East Point Peace Academy envisions a world where historic conflicts are fully reconciled and where new conflict arises solely as an opportunity for deeper growth. Where the depth of human relations are so high that it allows each individual to attain their fullest human potential. Kazu works in prisons, jails, schools and communities to build a powerful, nonviolent movement of peace warriors.
Kazu’s strength comes from his commitment to peace work since the age of 17, when he embarked on a 1.5-year journey across the US and South Asia, studying nonviolence while living in temples with a Buddhist order committed to peace and justice. He reflects “I believe that those working for peace need to have the same levels of commitment, training, strategy and discipline that the military invests into war. The military trains its leaders at WestPoint. EastPoint will serve as a counter to that.” Contact Kazu at firstname.lastname@example.org