TEAMWORK TOWARD THE “GANDHI-KING SEASON FOR NONVIOLENCE”
By Audrey Kindred, Program Director, Young Ethical Explorers, 2021.
The New York Society for Ethical Culture (NYSEC) has a long history of involvement with the Gandhi-King Season For Non-Violence (SFN). Prior to the pandemic, events of this special season were held annually in Adler Hall and will hopefully resume next year. As Program Director of NYSEC’s Young Ethical Explorers program, I was invited to join the SFN organizing committee this year, an honor and privilege, allowing me to be part of an international, interfaith, and intergenerational conversation with diverse participants ranging in age from 14 to 85.
SNF was established in 1998 by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, as a yearly event celebrating the philosophies and lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. (To learn more about SFN, visit: https://ethical.nyc/season-for-non-violence/.) SFN begins on January 30, when Gandhi was killed, and ends on April 4, when King was killed. Co-leaders of the organizing committee are Lindy P. Crescitelli and Shawn Denise Landry. Mr. Crescitelli, former NYC teacher and conflict resolution specialist, is the Pathways to Peace, UN Economic and Social Council Representative to the UN’s Department of Global Communications; he is also the founder, lead adult educator/advisor, and head organizer of March for Our Lives NY. Ms. Landry, a social worker, is Director of The College of Staten Island Liberty Partnerships Program.
The SFN team participates in thoughtful, peaceful organizing, which necessitates challenging, invigorating discussions. Within this rich intergenerational process, it has been such a pleasure to see the deep, earnest work and ideas of high school students supported so respectfully, and vice versa. We discuss how non-violence as a protest form arises from the need to face the harmful forces of violence with disciplined restraint and turn them on their head. Young people boldly dig into the ethical dilemmas that arise, for example, when we learn of the imperfections of these world-transforming heroes. In this interracial network, we were all very deeply moved to realize how THIS conversation we were having was indeed made possible by a world ushered in by the very figures we were discussing. From our diverse perspectives, working hard and patiently, we spoke and listened to one another, exploring the complicated realities of our heroes. Difficult conversations done well are a true treasure.
Throughout the Season for Nonviolence, we have looked for opportunities to weave its aims and messages into our Ethical Culture programming for children and their families. Emphasizing a non-theist and non-gendered version of the SNF theme song, “Let there be peace on earth,” we integrated it into our YEE curriculum, resulting in rich dialogue about the nature of interfaith inclusivity. The children learned to sing the song, and some learned to play it on their musical instruments. Throughout, we benefited from the helpful collaboration of parents and of Barbara Carlson, music teacher and Chair of the NYSEC Youth and Families committee. As the news of the war in Ukraine came forth, this peace mantra brought to us in the song’s lyrics have been even more essential for the children: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
On Monday, March 21, NYSEC Leader, Dr. Nori Rost, joined an esteemed interfaith team to participate in a public dialogue for all on zoom, “Season for NonViolence: Across Cultures and Faiths.”
On April 4, is SNF’s culminating event took place online. It included keynote speaker, Dr. Arun Gandhi, and of some of our families and children engaged in various elements of the program. This program is designed to be wonderful and uplifting for all ages. It is wonderful to realize that Dr. Arun Gandhi is the grandson of Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, and wrote several children’s books about his life with his grandfather.
Here is a promo video highlighting some of our Young Ethical Explorers for a taste of the events. Visit Gandhi/King Season for Nonviolence to see parts of these wonderful events, if you missed their first screening.