Session 6

Autoethnographies of Peace—Proximity to Hatred- Panel

(Chair: Wim Laven)

  • “A historical lesson from an unexpected encounter,” Renee Gainer (University of Alabama at Birmingham) 
  • “Witnessing the Scars of Ethnic Violence: An Arduous Journey to Peace”, Ziaul Haque (Kennesaw State University)

  • "Going Native with Nazis: Ethnography as Activism", Randy Blazak (University of Oregon)

  • “Escaping Hatred”, Wim Laven (Kennesaw State University)

Autoethnographies of Peace—this panel looks at the critical reflective of personal narratives within the larger context of wider cultural, ideological, philosophical political, and social meanings and understandings. Panelists answer questions such as, how did my experience of peace or exposure to violence change the trajectory of my life? What do I know now that I wish I would have known earlier in life? The answers, however, look at the reflective of lessons learned from families and communities during periods of stability and crisis and how those answers, in turn, became internalized and challenged. Our experiences and sources of knowledge have differed but they have delivered similar goals and motivations, these narratives are important.

Working for the Greater Good: Strategies for Launching A Career in Peace and Justice- Panel

Amy Cox (Arcadia University) , Susan E. Cushman (Nassau Community College/SUNY), Gordon Fellman (Brandeis University), David J. Smith (George Mason University/Forage Center for Peacebuilding)(Moderator: David J. Smith)

Students pursuing study in peace and justice related areas today are cognizant of the challenges of starting a career or gaining employment after their education. Unlike previous generations, students today - recent findings indicate as high as 86% - indicate they are in college and seeking an education to prepare them for the job market. However, faculty and staff working with students often struggle in providing guidance on careers. In this panel, faculty representing the three sectors of higher education: community college, 4 year undergraduate, and graduate, will share their experiences in and helping to professionally develop and prepare students for careers in peace and justice areas. There will be opportunity for discussion and questions from the audience.

Fostering Healing, Transformation, and Peace through Diversity Engagement: Perspectives from the Deaf Community and Gallaudet University- Panel

Elavie Ndura (Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Gallaudet University), Matthew Rider-Barclay (Training and Outreach Manager, Laurent Clerc Center, Gallaudet University), Anibelka Henriquez (Chair, Gallaudet Staff Council, Gallaudet University), (Moderator: Elavie Ndura)

Gallaudet University has a unique mission to educate and support primarily deaf and hard of hearing students and communities. As such, cultural and linguistic diversity is at the core of the University's struggle to create and nurture an inclusive and peaceful community where inner peace underlies the experiences of all community members and intergroup relations.

The presenters, who represent some of the complexities of the diversity that characterizes the community of Gallaudet University and the deaf community, discuss the unique mandate, rich opportunities, and inherent challenges to serve deaf and hard of hearing students, staff, and faculty while affirming intersectionality as the overarching diversity framework necessary to foster healing, transformation, and peace.

To this effect, they begin with a historic overview of the education of deaf children in the United States, and highlight effects of annihilating discrimination on the lived experiences of deaf communities in schools and society and ways that such discrimination hinders the development of inner peace and of peaceful intergroup relations. They deconstruct perspectives on the meanings of diversity, inclusion, and peace within deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing communities, and share a framework of diversity engagement grounded in intersectionality that would support individual and collective healing, facilitate transformational relations, and promote peace within the Gallaudet University community and beyond.

This presentation is significant as it will expand and enrich conversations, actions, and partnerships of the PJSA community beyond the annual conference.

From Campus to Community: LEADing the Way to Awareness and Acceptance- Roundtable

Collin Mills (University of Central Missouri), Samantha Byler (University of Central Missouri), Casey Lim (University of Central Missouri), Michelle Amos (Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, University of Central Missouri)

Warrensburg, Missouri is a rural Midwest community of just under 20,000 residents. Census data indicate that the population is 85.3% white, with a median household income of $40,789, a poverty rate of 25.3%, an uninsured rate of 11.4%, and a veteran population of roughly 10%, likely due to proximity to Whiteman Air Force Base. (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/2977092)

For almost 150 years, Warrensburg has also been home to the main campus of University of Central Missouri. Founded as a Teachers’ College, UCM currently offers 150 programs of study and serves approximately 14,000 students, approximately 88% of whom are state residents. Our other students represent 42 states and 61 countries, a diversity that is a bold contrast to that found in the local community. (https://www.ucmo.edu/about/facts/)

UCM has a residential requirement for students’ first two years on campus, seeking to increase involvement with and connection to the many facets of academic life. As approximately 50% of UCM students are first-generation college students, we seek to over support in this new home environment that is necessary for the transition into the demands of college success.

In addition to meeting students’ academic needs, UCM strives to create an atmosphere of welcome and acceptance for all students. The Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity was recently opened on campus as a focal point for this goal. (https://www.ucmo.edu/news/cni.cfm)

Despite the progress towards diversity acceptance on campus, the values espoused in the campus community are at times in conflict with those of the local residents. This was highlighted last November when heightened tensions around election results led to an African-American student being spat upon and a group of protesters being the victims of a vehicular assault in a campus crosswalk by local resident. (https://showmeprogress.com/2016/11/14/arrest-announced-in-warrensburg-protest-assault/)

Recognition that this is a pivotal opportunity to bridge the chasm between these two groups has led to a number of moves both in the community and on campus. The Warrensburg Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was recently resurrected and populated with local and college representatives, including a student representative. Further, the Leading Educator Advocates for Diversity (LEAD) club on campus has returned after a five year lapse, in an attempt to bring similar issues to the fore both at the college and in the local schools.

The purpose of this roundtable discussion is twofold: to explore some of the coalitions and actions that we have explored in working to coordinate efforts with likeminded community members and local schools to “win hearts and minds” of those open to accepting diversity through raising awareness, and to discuss other strategies that our fledgling group might consider to further engage in proactively promoting our message for positive social change.

Becoming a Disturber of the Peace: Lessons from the Frontline of Human Transformation- Workshop  [Note: This workshop is meant to follow-up "Disturbing the Peace", presented in film series session #3]

​​​​Marcina Hale (Re-Consider), Steve Apkon (Re-Consider)

We use the film as a way to connect people to an experience of transformation and to open up discussion.  “Disturbing the Peace” challenges us to face situations both personally and collectively that we believe are impossible and to see the importance of stepping up and standing for the kind of world we want to create. It examines how the act of  “Disturbing the Peace”  functions as a catalyst for change and enables the transformation of our world to live harmoniously with respect and security for all starting with personal transformation.  We honor the Combatants for Peace for being an example of this work and in the workshop we explore these concepts on a very personal and collective level knowing that it is universal.

Becoming a Disturber of the Peace Workshop Itself:

  • Establishing that everything begins with the personal experience, the workshop challenges us to examine our perspectives and actions by evoking personal reactions, finding resistances and cultivating awareness. With the belief that when we become aware that we each carry perspectives that when shifted, can create a better world, we than have a choice to imagine and create something new.  
  • We recognize that the energy we use to create these changes is the same energy we will use to build our new reality.  Therefore the program encourages meeting these changes from a place of Curiosity,  Tolerance, Understanding, Compassion, Honoring and, ultimately, Love.   We acknowledge the importance and effectiveness of nonviolence.

Based on Reconsider Life:

Disturbing the Peace workshop is based on The Reconsider Life Workshop, which  incorporates five main tenets: Curiosity, Awareness, Owning our Creation, Reimaging, Manifesting. The focus ranges from the individual to the collective knowing that our reality starts within ourselves and is supported by those around us.   We work with perspectives and patterns and with great compassion for every human being.  

  • Curiosity - Begin with an openness.  Understanding that nothing is created without an initial energy that supports it.  The concept is that everything makes sense; if we were born or raised as others were raised, we would believe or act as they do.   We begin by taking a position to first learn to understand and to be curious about what is happening and what past events have created the current situation.
  • Awareness is a part of seeing that the patterns we are in are similar to conflicts all over the world.  We look at what “sides” and perspectives are and how they function in maintaining the status quo.   We begin to see how we individually contribute to these patterns and see where we personally are stuck.
  • Owning our Creation is where we integrate our actions.  Knowing that we cannot want world peace for example and hate our neighbor.  It is incongruent to do so.   We begin to see what shifts we each might personally make to begin to really create the change we desire.
  • Reimagining is where we see the issue resolved.  This is often harder than you think and can really bring you back to having to be curious, aware and own your own feelings to really feel what is possible. It can be a challenge to imagine beyond our current reality and we look at the dynamics that make this challenging.
  • Manifest is where we learn how to work with people to create deeper levels of change.  We examine how to support others and to see when we are pulled into narratives we don’t want to continue. We work to shift the beliefs that work against what we want to create, in order to work collectively on what we do want to create.

Dialogue: Possibilities and Pitfalls in the Struggle for Social Justice- Workshop

Amy Finnegan (Assistant Professor, Justice & Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas), Tyler Bah (Student, Justice & Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas), Martin Beck (Student, Justice & Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas), Maddy Rudkin (Student, Justice & Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas), Mackenzie Garrett (Student, Justice & Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas)

In theory and practice, dialogue is often upheld as a key tool and framework for both peacemaking and peacebuilding. It has been advocated in efforts for racial justice, to address the blue/red divide in our country, to fight Islamophobia, and to move forward climate justice. Within the field of conflict transformation, we center dialogue, often because of the opportunities it provides to work across difference and talk through disagreement without violence. Yet, dialogue also has its liabilities - when there are asymmetrical power relations between parties and when one party is better trained/skilled in constructive dialogue than others. In this interactive workshop, Justice & Peace Studies students will provide an underlying theory of dialogue, key skills in constructive dialogue and then engage audience members in some tangible pedagogical dialogue exercises. Drawing on their own dialogue experiences in the Soliya Connect program (https://www.soliya.net/ ), with ROTC students on campus, in a World Café dialogue on climate change, and in a diverse and tumultuous classroom, the students will collectively engage all participants in a conversation on, “how, if at all, can dialogue contribute to social justice?”

U.S. Militarism and Permanent Warfare are Killing the Planet: MLK's challenge to Peace Studies- Workshop

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (University of St. Thomas)

This workshop will explore how faith in violence has become America's true religion and the challenges U.S. militarism and permanent warfare state pose to the discipline of peace studies. MLK's insight that little social progress would be possible without confronting "the greatest purveyor of violence" in the world--the United States--is as true today as it was in 1967. We will examine together what it means for us to take this insight and challenge seriously in our work as peace educators and activists.

​The Empathy Project- Live Performance 

Anne Ledvina, Allafi J. Amin, Sumter Coleman, Annie Ledvina, Islam Jaber, Mustafa Jaber, Rowan El-Qishawi, Eva Ledvina, Lynda Wilson, and Alexander Casiday

The Empathy Project is a performance piece that tells the stories of refugees moving across the world in search of safety, hope and survival for their families and themselves.  Feel what it must be like to leave your home due to forces outside your control, to leave everything you know and love behind and to traverse unknown lands and seas in search of refuge. The Empathy Project was composed by Anne Ledvina, Associate Director of International Programs, Birmingham-Southern College. Following the performance there will be an opportunity to talk with the playwright and cast about the stories that have inspired the work.