Our peace is broken with the sudden loss of Zach, our peace is coming from his light, our Holy one and our LFFP community. Zach- peace camper, JCIT, CIT, Counselor and Lead Counselor of Little Friends For Peace.
In the journey towards peace, reflection sits at the heart of each person who decides to take the leap into such a practice. The practice of peace itself is a conscious effort, and seeing a group of men, who in society’s viewpoint have nothing, come together on the journey towards peace was not only inspiring but even more so humbling.
We often tell ourselves not to take things for granted, and to always realize one’s own privilege in the world we live in no matter our circumstances. Sitting as a black, college-educated female, I knew my privilege, but was also aware of what burdens were predisposed against me because of how I am labeled in the world. Because of this consistent awareness to both privilege and hardship, I was able to reach the deep level with these men who consciously placed themselves in the peace circle that day.
They spoke on the systems they felt were against them, leaping back into history with reflection upon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the reasoning behind his undoubtedly heroic downfall. We discussed not only the progressive impact he made on what we as an American culture have progressed to today, but also the inquisitive question, did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. die from his own ignorance? With varying opinions in the group, we were able to move the conversation into the ultimate question of how do we react to things, and how our reactions can be changed to reflect and resolve in a more peaceful manner. Dr. King chose a peaceful and consistent protest to display to the country the hideous mistreating of black people in America. How one progresses to that took center stage.
One man suggested that you could only live for yourself, and to find peace within starts with the desire to better yourself first. Others reflected on the idea that you cannot progress on your own with either looking to others for guidance, or having a solid support system around you. Even more compelling was the discussion of if believing in a higher power constitutes as still living for yourself or if you are still “living for someone or something else.” Such deep, philosophical ideas were discussed that early Thursday morning, creating a much more in-depth and reflective state in the Father McKenna Center than any I was expecting that morning.
The overall idea of progress through one’s own means left a steady impact on me the rest of that day, causing me to look at how I am progressing towards my utmost peaceful life, and what that life constitutes for me. I have always known I am advocate for “peace on earth,” but where did that desire put me as an overall entity of myself? That morning, the men at our peace circle pushed me to think about peace from a standpoint of the less than privileged, and why to them progress was more than what the American Dream entails. As a whole, I left the Father McKenna Center enlightened, thoughtful, and overall more peaceful knowing that those who seemingly have nothing continue to be able minded and steadfast in themselves and their dreams towards peace in whatever capacity that means for them beyond the walls of adversity.
Little Friends For Peace is going international with the help of Kirin Taylor. Kirin helped teach the peace lesson workshop in Vienna. It was called "Live Peace, Teach Peace" and was developed from MJ and Jerry's book. Kirin has been a huge part of Little Friends For Peace and spreading our message. She has worked as our summer camp coordinator after attending LFFP camp herself and she has now established peace club in Rome, Italy. Kirin was offered the opportunity by a woman she met at a peace conference hosted by the international peace bureau in Berlin and has helped spread LFFP’s message in so many ways; she even spoke about LFFP at a museum in Austria. Kirin explained that the most important part of her peace club in Vienna was “emphasizing each individual's role in creating a peaceful world. It starts from individual actions and language, and people were reminded of this.” During the peace lesson Kirin had people make a goal of something that they can do to spread peace within their community. It was extremely successful and helped continue the mission of Little Friends For Peace all the way in Vienna. This workshop was successful because people dove into their passions and things that they wanted to do to help the world. We are extremely excited for the continued growth of Little Friends For Peace.
This year at LFFP, we are extremely excited to have Georgetown students come help with our after school program. In addition to learning about peace and having dinner during our afterschool program, the kids are able to work on their homework assignments. They are given the opportunity to get one on one time with tutors and have any questions answered on their homework. This is a great addition to our after school program. Our kids really seem to be enjoying the Georgetown students that come and help them this year, which also opens up an opportunity for the kids to have a mentor. Our kids are getting extra help with their homework. This is all really exciting for us at LFFP.
Shoa Phillpotts and Mary Joan (MJ) Park, our Little Friends For Peace representatives, attended the Rodham Summit that was both motivational and enlightening. The Rodham Summit took place on October 20, 2016, and was a discussion on how to provide good health and wellness opportunities to youth in different communities. MJ Park, Co-founder and Executive Director, spoke on behalf of LFFP on the panel. MJ contributed to the discussion of the role of youth in community health, and how emotional health is especially important in schools. Additionally, MJ mentioned how health and wellness play into eliminating our culture of violence. MJ also talked about the peace classes that are offered at LFFP and how some kids have a lot of built up anger. If you have built up anger, you can’t maintain good wellness. The Rodham Summit’s goals were to empower youth, goals that LFFP shares.
MJ felt honored to be able to speak at the Rodham Summit. She thought it was great that she could talk to people that shared the same goals as her own. MJ described the atmosphere as a “wonderful spirit of hope.” MJ discussed how her own program helps contribute to disrupting the violence and enforcing health and wellness in communities. It was great to collaborate with more like-minded people. Leaving this event, MJ concluded that it was helping to “create a culture of peace.”
Moving forward, at LFFP we need to eliminate toxic stress. Our mission is that we want to continue to encourage “children to be children” and we want to “provide them with positive role models, and love and help them to find their self worth,” says Shoa Phillpotts. As the Rodham Summit panels established, under privileged kids are given a lot of negative labels, and at LFFP we are going to continue our mission to help discard these labels.
The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Communications and Marketing has photo credit.