Everyday Strategies for Building Peace in the New Year
On New Year's Eve, eight Worcester leaders reflected on strategies for building peace in 2017 at Community Voices of Peace, a First Night program held at the First Unitarian Church in Worcester. It was a wonderful way to begin the new year.
The evening's speakers included Mona Ives, an Islamic educator and member of the Worcester Islamic Center and Interfaith Committee. Here is an edited version of her remarks which you can hear in their entirety on our Facebook page.
#1 on my list of strategies is to BELIEVE in peace. Believe it is possible to achieve and that it is worth the effort, constancy, and dedication required. It is worth the inevitable setbacks and heartache that accompany the work.
Strategy #2 is to make peace-building your job title. Peace-building is not just for politicians, leaders, movers & shakers. It is for EVERYONE. Wake up each morning and attach the term “peace maker” to your title. “Peace Maker and Nurse” – “Peace Builder and Taxi Driver” “Peace Builder and Dentist” “Peace Builder and Full Time Parent”. Whatever your role in this world, start to rebuild your identity as someone who is dedicated to building peace in their everyday life. Make peace-making who you are.
Strategy #3 – Put peace on your calendar. Pencil in time for actively helping others. Find an organization – whether it be your place of worship, a charity organization, your workplace, or engagement in the political process – and commit to spending at least some of your time making the world a better place for others. Find a cause you care about and make time for it. I personally don’t know a single person who isn’t busy or has a full schedule. But the world will never change unless we make time for it.
Strategy #4 is outreach. Expand your circle of friends and acquaintances. Most often we make friends when we’re young and those friends make up the majority of our circle for our lifetimes. This doesn’t afford us the chance to meet someone of a different race, culture, religion, or lifestyle. If you look around the table and everyone at it looks the same, it’s time to broaden your horizons.
I know all too well what it’s like to have someone look at me with contempt just because of my religious attire or the color of my skin. I often wish I could talk to that person and ask them about their day, their family, their hobbies. Because I know that we are all MORE alike than we are different! There is much more we could do together if we are willing to break down the walls and barriers of suspicion, hatred, and intolerance.
Strategy #5 is to be brave! Recently there was a video circulating online showing a woman at a JCPenny hurling insults and racial slurs at a Latina woman in line with her. Perhaps the bigger tragedy [of that incident] was that no one said or did anything. No one said to this woman, « Excuse me ma’am, but you are out of line. » In that moment, no one expressed displeasure at what she had said and how she had made this Latina woman anxious. We all have a social responsibility as peace-builders to send a message that this is unacceptable. Doing this may require us to dig deep for a bravery that we do not have. But peace simply cannot be built in an environment of fear, distrust, and scapegoating. Strategy #5 is probably the most important.
Let's teach our kids all of the above. Let's raise our children to be the ones who stand up for the kid who gets picked on in school. Let's teach our kids that making blessing bags for the homeless is far more rewarding than leveling up in that video game. Let's reward them for kindness and generosity more than, perhaps, winning their little league game, and teach them about those who have less or live in different parts of the world. If we hope to pass the torch to the next generation, we have no other choice but to do this.
It goes without saying that we stand a better chance of success if we work together and look for common ground. I hope that events like this give us the opportunity to build the type of relationships needed to succeed.
So with that, I pray with all of my fellow citizens, Worcesterites, and people of faith that we make 2017 the year of building peace. Thank you.
The evening's other speakers were :
Laurie Ross, Associate Professor of Community Development and Planning, Clark University
Rev. Daniel Gregoire – Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton
Rabbi Valerie Cohen, Temple Emanuel Sinai in Worcester
Melissa Myozen Blacker, Roshi and Abbot, Boundless Way Zen Center of Worcester
Frank Kartheiser, Lead Organizer of Worcester Interfaith since 1993
Michael True, Professor of English Emeritus, Assumption College, Founder and Board Member of CNVS
The First Unitarian Church of Worcester along with the Worcester Islamic, and CNVS sponsored Community Voices of Peace. Center co-chair Paul Ropp emceed.
Remembering Dr.Richard Seder
The Center for Nonviolent Solutions mourns the passing of longtime friend and supporter, Dr. Richard Seder, who was tireless in his work to build trust and harmony between Israelis and Palestinians. His obituary is available at this link, http://www.roneyfuneralhome.com/…/Seder-Richard/obituary.php
He and his wife Sue Cotter kindly have named the Center as a possible recipient of donations in his honor. Donations is his honor can be made at this link, https://nonviolentsolutions.nationbuilder.com/donate
Many thanks to everyone who responded so generously to our year-end appeal. We appreciate your gift and knowing of your interest in our mission to promote a culture of peace. With 2017 just around the corner, we anticipate the work to come - developing our youth radio program, hosting a public reading of civil rights documents with teens, and continuing to work with our talented peer mediators at Claremont.
Those of you who have yet to make a donation to the Center, it is not too late! We welcome your gift. We welcome the opportunity to connect with you, so please remember us before year's end.
You can start the New Year with songs and readings of peace. On New Year's Eve, Worcester's First Unitarian Church, in collaboration with the Islamic Center of Worcester, hosts Community Voices of Peace an interfaith program featuring messages of peace:
First Unitarian Church, 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA
First Night Button required.
Folk singer Jim Scott, renowned troubadour of peace, will be singing at the church at 5:00 p.m. Check out Jim's version "Whole Wide World" played at our November fundraiser. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPVdZljGbmU
Happy Holidays to all!
Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, Eileen Lawter, and Kelley Eaton
Goods for Gun Program
Dr.Hirsh a supporter of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions had the annual Goods for Guns program on December 10th. Goods for Guns allows community members to bring in guns for gift cards. The event collected over 250 guns in hopes of decreasing gun violence and gun accidents in the community. CNVS gave Dr. Hirsh an award at our annual meeting a few years ago.
You can read more here: http://www.telegram.com/news/20161210/central-mass-gun-buyback-nets-260-weapons-in-single-day
Thank you Dr. Hirsh!
In this fractious political year violence has been all too evident in our inner cities, in our schools and even in our public discourse. In Worcester, our high schools have armed guards, and our district ranked among the top five in the state for school suspensions.
The good news is that donations from our supporters have enabled the Center for Nonviolent Solutions to continue effective work to reduce violence in the city of Worcester. This fall we hosted a training in peace education and hired new staff including a communications coordinator who has significantly increased our online presence. Plans are underway for Voices of Peace, a radio project with neighborhood youth highlighting efforts of peacemakers. Listen for them on WCUW!
The Center has been involved for three years at Claremont Academy, a grade 7-12 school in Worcester’s Main South. This fall we trained 18 Claremont high school students who will be conducting peer mediations this year for the middle school students.
In 2011-12 with a total enrollment of 370 Claremont had over 300 suspensions. Last year, with an enrollment of 540 there were 29 suspensions. That is a 90% reduction in the rates of suspension in one school.
Most of the credit for Claremont’s remarkable turnaround goes to Principal Ricci Hall and his dedicated staff who have also introduced such practices as mindfulness meditation and restorative justice circles which are changing the school culture. Principal Hall has said of our programs:
“Students began to see violence as a negative choice. They were profoundly impacted and engaged in deep thinking about nonviolence….. These students became ambassadors of this thinking in our school.”
The Center for Nonviolent Solutions is proud to be a part of such a striking success in an inner city Worcester school. In order to expand our work to other schools, we are in critical need of your support.
Our dedicated board of directors has pledged $5000 in matching funds for this end-of-year appeal. All your gifts up to $5000 will be doubled by our board.
Many thanks to those who have already responded so generously to our appeal. You encourage us. For those who have yet to give, there is still time. Help us make 2017 a year for building peace.
Social Justice Happy Hour on Resources for Teaching Peace
Come join us on Thursday, November 17: 5:30-7:00 p.m.
149 Highland Street, Worcester, MA 01609
Questions: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 774 641-1566
While violence dominates our media, the untold good news is that interest in nonviolent education is on the rise. Mindfulness practice. Restorative Circles. Using social media to promote nonviolence. Educators across the country are creatively incorporating these, and other skills, into their classrooms to create peaceful schools. A peaceful future. Join Center staff for an informal evening of resource sharing. We’ll tell you what we know. You tell us what you need. Come to network. Come to relax. Come to support one another in the crucial work of educating youth to become peace-builders.
Remembering Pete Seeger in Song
Folk singer Jim Scott will hold a Pete Seeger Songfest to benefit the Center for Nonviolent Solutions 7:00 PM Sunday November 6, in the sanctuary of the First Unitarian Church, 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA.
Composer/guitarist Jim Scott, who knew Pete well and collaborated on many projects with the folk legend, will lead the audience in songs for the causes Seeger championed and will remember his great contributions to peace and to our American heritage.
Scott brings a warmth, and authenticity that turns any size audience into an intimate gathering. His lyrical melodies, well-crafted words, guitar mastery and humorous surprises moved Pete Seeger to call him “Some kind of a magician.” A guitarist with the Paul Winter Consort and co-composer of their celebrated "Missa Gaia / Earth Mass," Scott is a prolific composer in his own right.
Scott, a lifelong Unitarian Universalist (UU)has also become a student of the movement for peace and justice in song, compiling and arranging the "Earth and Spirit Songbook," a collection of over 110 songs by many contemporary composers, including Pete Seeger. His much loved "Gather the Spirit" and other songs are in the UU hymnbooks. He was one of the creators of the Green Sanctuary program for churches to become more sustainable.
The Center for Nonviolent Solutions is a non-profit organization that provides education and resources to help people in the Worcester area to understand nonviolence and peacemaking as a way of life and to reject the use of violence in resolving conflict. The Center teaches middle school and high school students how to resolve conflicts peacefully through mutual respect, empathy cultivation, active listening and peer mediation. The Center also provides training in peacebuilding skills to teachers and youth workers, and provides instruction in the history of successful nonviolent movements in the modern world.
Suggested donation: $20 for adults. $10 for students.
Late September and early October were busy times at the Center. On September 26 and October 3, staff members met with Clark University Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) students working at Claremont Academy and gave brief presentations on peace education. On September 27 and October 4, we hosted an introductory training in peace education at 901 Pleasant Street, open to anyone in the Worcester community who teaches or works with young people.
At the community training, participants were introduced to the basics of peace education, including sequential processes for resolving conflicts nonviolently, mindfulness activities, and nonviolent histories.
At the first session, Rose Koerner, of Clark University, discussed mindfulness activities she did with children in fifth grade as a teacher/researcher at Worcester’s Goddard Elementary School. Claire Schaeffer-Duffy and Dan Margolis began the evening with a “cocktail party,” an exercise that encouraged community building among attendees and also helped build active listening skills. The evening ended with stories of youth peacebuilders, including those opposing the projected South Dakota pipeline.
At the second session, participants were given some “brass tacks” tools to use with their youth, including the Conflict Escalator and the CLEAR method of conflict resolution. Participants agreed that they wanted to continue meeting informally, to hear talks on strategies for peace- building with youth, share experiences, and enjoy each other’s company.
At the sessions for Clark MAT’s, Claire Schaeffer-Duffy presented a broad overview of peace education and restorative practices to five student teachers, as well as others in the Claremont community who expressed interest. The Center believes that peace education is a necessity for teachers, and hopes to see it included in college teacher training curricula. We saw the meeting with the MATs as a small first step in that direction.
For more information, or to learn more about tools and events for educators, please feel free to contact us.
Teaching the Fourth R: Right Relationships and the Culture of Peace
An Introductory Training in Peace Education
September 27th and October 4th
This free two-part training by CNVS instructors introduces participants to ways of creating peace in their workplace, communities, or classrooms using nonviolent strategies and problem solving skills. Specifically geared for youth educators and youth workers.
Topics covered include:
- Centering activities and restorative circles
- Tools for conflict assessment and transformation
- Cooperative games
- Real-life stories of peace heroes and heroines to inspire youth
- Strategies for nonviolent management
Learn how you and your students can become agents for peace in the classroom and beyond. Additionally, you will have an opportunity to connect with like-minded educators.
An Autumn of Peacebuilding
The office is abuzz these days with the creative energy of our new staff. In late June, we bade a fond farewell to Jennifer Smead, our former director of finances and then interim executive director. In August, we hired Dan Margolis as our education program manager, Eileen Lawter as administrative assistant, and Kelley Eaton as communications coordinator. The Center also welcomed Eriberto Mora, a senior at Clark University as education intern for 2016-17. I relinquished my title as chair of the Board of Directors to serve as staff director. It is a joy to accompany this energetic team as they implement the important work of teaching skills for building a culture of peace.
On August 25 and 26, Dan and I assisted educator and mediator Karen Thomsen in training seventeen young people and two faculty for the Peer Mediation Program at Claremont Academy, an inner-city public school located in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood. What a remarkable group of youth! We are looking forward to supporting them throughout the school year as they mediate the conflicts of their middle school peers. The Peer Mediation Program is one of several efforts within Claremont’s “whole school" approach to creating a peaceable school.
Plans for our second annual fall training in nonviolence education are well underway. Teaching the Fourth R: Right Relationships and the Culture of Peace is scheduled for Tuesday, September 27 and Tuesday, October 4, 5:30-8:00 pm here at 901 Pleasant Street, Worcester. Geared for youth educators, this two-part workshop, will introduce participants to the basics of peace education and offer plenty of opportunity to network with like-minded souls. Details forthcoming. Mark your calendars and spread the word.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to our July appeal. Each contribution means more to us than a dollar value; it’s a vote of confidence in our mission. So onward! Let’s spend our autumn working to build a culture of peace in Worcester and beyond.
Help build a culture of peace in Worcester
“There is so much hate and so much violence in this country,” lamented a dear friend in the wake of the Orlando massacre. I understood his reaction. Perhaps you have felt similarly. And yet, I am unexpectedly optimistic despite these heart-breaking times
Last week, I stopped by Claremont High School, located in Worcester’s Main South, to meet the teens who signed up for our Peer Mediation (PM) Program. We successfully ran a PM Program at the school two years ago. In August, we will train these teens to mediate the conflicts of their middle school peers throughout the 2016-17 school year. I expected eight registrants. Twenty showed up. Were any familiar with Peer Mediation? I asked. Indeed, they were. A number of them had used Center-trained Peer Mediators to help resolve their fights when they were in middle school.
Fighters becoming peace-builders. This is how we build a culture of peace. One young person at a time.
But to do so takes money. To hire a part-time Education Program Manager for just one semester costs $10,000, a hefty sum for our limited pool of funds. Imagine what two peace educators working full-time could achieve! Imagine how many “fighting” middle schoolers could learn to become peace-building teens and how many aspiring peace educators could develop professionally in this pioneering field.
Your contribution will help build a culture of peace. $10,000 is our summer fundraising goal, one we’d like to reach by mid-July. With $10,000 we can expand the hours for our peace educator and expand our programming. Help us meet that goal. Together, we can build a culture of peace in Worcester and beyond!
President, Board of Directors
Cultivating Nonviolence event
On March 22nd, the Center held its annual meeting event, Cultivating Nonviolence: A Celebration of Peace Education in our Schools and Neighborhoods. Attendees enjoyed some beautiful music by Neighborhood Strings, a program of the Worcester Chamber Music Society that provides free music lessons to Main South youth.
Lisa Brennan, Program Director of Services for New Americans at Ascentria Care Alliance, gave a fascinating talk about her organization's work with refugees in the Worcester area. Center Board Chair Claire Schaeffer-Duffy then presented Ascentria Care Alliance with the Center's annual Community Peacemaker Award, given to an individual or organization making a difference in our community.
Following the program, Executive Director Jennifer Smead reported on the previous year's accomplishments and activities. Some highlights are found in the Center’s 2016 Annual Report. Board Treasurer Ruth Rowan presented the Center's financial outlook, and Claire Schaeffer-Duffy reviewed the list of Board officers for 2016, which were approved by those in attendance. The Center's list of Board members and officers can be found here.
Thank you to everyone who sponsored, attended, and supported
our 5th Annual Way of Nonviolence event:
An Evening with Dr. Paul Walker, Chemical and Nuclear Weapons Disarmament Expert and 2013 Right Livelihood Award Laureate
We appreciate YOU!
THANK YOU for the financial support from many individuals, foundations, businesses, municipal and state funders who make this work possible!
Enjoy Cultivating Nonviolence (Annual Meeting) Event Photos
and our 2014 Annual Report
Support is always welcome! Donate Now »