Yasmine at the UN!

Yasmine was invited to join the UN's International Youth Day conference, where she participated in the Youth-led Peacebuilding and Violence Prevention panel.

The panel and gathering provided a much-needed space for young people to have their voices and creative peacemaking solutions heard.

There were about 200 people in the room. It was so humbling and amazing to see so many youth from all over the world and the United States together in one place and listening so attentively. It was an honor to be in the presence of some of our prestigious world leaders, such as ambassadors from countries such as Senegal, Colombia and Norway. They all gave addresses to the youth saying that they are counting on us and our creative ideas to save our world and make it a better, safer place.
— Yasmine

How did you spend your #InternationalYouthDay?

Warm Paws for the Winter - A Channel Kindness Award Winner Event

We have partnered with Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation and their Channel Kindness program to recognize the contributions of young people who are improving their schools and communities through acts of kindness.

Up first: Kirah from Tacoma, WA for her work at her local humane society

Left to right: Fish, Kirah!, Kelsey

Left to right: Fish, Kirah!, Kelsey

Kirah's incredible compassion for the furry friends she cares for while volunteering at the Auburn Valley Humane Society is evident from the get-go - and she applied for the Channel Kindness Awards to spread that kindness and care for animals to everyone in her community. With support from Peace First and the Born This Way Foundation, Kirah was able to create an event that brought her vision of kindness to life.

Kirah’s Channel Kindness event -- Warm Paws for the Winter -- put kindness in-action by bringing together a crowd of volunteers to tie-dye blankets and decorate collars for the animals at the Auburn Valley Humane Society. Over 25 volunteers, young and old, all organized by Kirah, came together to make the supplies.

The Humane Society will be distributing the blankets and collars for free to new pet owners over the next few weeks!

Kirah was blown away by the recognition she received -- first by the Born This Way Foundation at her event, and then when she met Lady Gaga’s parents at the Lady Gaga concert later that night - an enormous honor for a big-time superfan!

If you're from the Indianapolis, St. Louis, Atlanta, Dallas or Salt Lake City regions, you can apply for the Channel Kindness Awards and be just like Kirah, winning $500 and a chance to host your own Channel Kindness event! Apply here.

Behind Menacing Words, There is Meaning

If you watch T.V., read the newspaper, go online, or just generally exist in the world today, you are aware of certain words that keep popping up, over and over again. Especially during the election, the meanings of words or phrases tend to be manipulated by those that choose to use them.

We decided to break them down for you. The language of our political system can get tricky, and it’s important to pay attention to make sure that your representatives are being held accountable for their words. So in the spirit of transparency, we chose some important terms from the past election.

Here they are:

Alternative-right or Alt-Right:

This phrase was coined by Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, in 2010. The purpose was to distinguish the mainstream American conservatives from this new branch -- which centers around the elevation of white supremacy while condemning the idea of “multiculturalism” and rights for minority groups. Their primary media platform is Breitbart news, which was conceived by Andrew Breitbart as a news source that would be “unapologetically pro-freedom”.  The website and radio program has consistently received allegations of racism and xenophobia. It’s former Executive Chairman is Steve Bannon, who is currently the Chief Strategist to President Trump.

Fake news:

This phrase has been used as a weapon of the far-right conservatives during the 2016 election, in an effort to cast doubt and distrust among Americans. It refers to the phenomenon of media outlets reporting information that has little grounding in fact. The distribution of fake news plays into the very real fear that our government and our media is not telling us the truth. While widely used by Donald Trump and co., the effects of “fake news” have been felt by everyone on the political spectrum. When we turn on the television, we expect quality news. We expect facts and an accurate depiction of the world today. What we collectively learned during the 2016 election is what many marginalized groups have known in this country for ages. When your government starts to propagate lies, you have to go elsewhere for news.

Post fact

“Post-fact” is a political universe in which attention to truth is overlooked in favor of a more emotional appeal. Facts are sacrificed in order to grab the hearts and minds of disillusioned Americans. If you have the ability to change the facts, to change what is known, you have power.  This phrase was repeatedly used by Donald Trump as justification for his words not holding up against factual evidence.

Birthirism

This is a movement questioning the birthplace of Barack Obama. It is well known that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, and thus inside the United States. However, this movement driven by “dog-whistle” racism at the first black president, perpetuates the idea that he was born elsewhere (for example, Kenya) and is therefore not eligible for the role of president. This movement paralleled similarly charged discussions about President Obama’s religion, and whether or not he is a Muslim. We know that these arguments take place simply to appeal to those that identify with the politics of the far-right candidates and affirm ideas of racism and xenophobia in the US.

*These are examples of the words that were being heavily searched during and after the election.

But the most searched word after the election, after Trump’s victory, was fascism.

Fascism: A way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government”

What do you think of this definition? Do you think we all have a duty to fight fascism in our own communities?

What are you going to do about it?

Start with us, and accept the Peace First Challenge. Make a difference in your community:

https://www.peacefirstchallenge.org/

Waiting for Justice

On February 10, 24-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina was arrested and detained, along with his father, in Seattle. Despite his DACA status that has enabled him to live peacefully and raise his son while working, he was subject to accusatory interrogations making him out to be a criminal and a gang member.

Both of which are untrue.

After waiting almost 2 months, Medina's case is at the hands of a judge who will determine his release, and whether or not his case moves on to federal court. He is not the only one. Since President Trump's newly militarized direction regarding immigration and reasons for deportation, there has been an increase in arrests of people of undocumented status. 

 

Much like Medina's case, many of these arrests are made on hollow claims that are fundamentally false. Undocumented people face this fear of unjust detainment every day, and the role of local community and justice seeking individuals has never been more important. 

What can we do? 

Local government has the chance to help protect their people with a "sanctuary city/state". Find out ways to get involved in your community to make sure that people like Medina are not forced into imprisonment or deportation without proper legal intervention. 

Is this an issue you are passionate about? Check out some Peace First projects that you might be interested in and see how young people are tackling injustice. 

 

 

Gender as the Next Frontier

There is always a point of contention between the older and younger generations. We live in the same world and yet, sometimes it feels as if we are living in completely different realities. There have always been issues that divide us along generational lines, and the issue of abolishing gender as a binary seems to be one of the big ones. 

 

Recently, this issue has made national news as the commonly referenced "Bathroom Bill" has been reintroduced by state governments across the country. This has opposed the Obama administration's prior guidance that encouraged public schools to support transgender students using the restroom of their preference. 

Track how your state legislature has voted on the Bathroom Bill. 

If the state that you live in is one of those pushing the bill along, check out this article for some tips on how to get involved and be and agent of change!

Do you feel impassioned about Trans rights? Check out this Peace First fellow's work!

Peace First Fellow Alexis on the Good Starts Young Rally

Peace First Fellow and founder of Seeds of Hope provides a recap of the Good Starts Young Rally we held in Chicago with our partners, The Allstate Foundation.

Four years ago my Mom told me if I was going to leave our hometown of Pittsburgh, PA for college I would have to find a way to pay for my first year. As I realized my waitressing job at Chili’s wasn’t going to pay for my dream school, Temple University, this challenge drove me to a website called College Greenlight. The Peace First Peace was one of 92 scholarships I applied to, but this isn’t story of success and winning $25,000, this is a story of what I originally thought of as a failure. For two years I made it to the semi-finalist round of the Prize but never won. I was so upset but the universe always works in funny ways - losing the prize did not mean I wasn’t invited into the community.

Fast forward two years, I am inducted into the Fellowship Program and invited to help ten AMAZING teams of young people from across the world in the windy city of Chicago. When I walked into the planning session with the other fellows I could feel the hope, the intention, and the willingness to be flexible with whatever the week would present us. The love that fills the room is unlike anything else. Jasmine (the sweetheart), Tony (the joker), Amit (the cool kid), Grace (everyone’s little sister), Fish (the team leader), Imani (silent but strong), Tiffani (too hip to quit), Yasmine (everyone’s big sister), and Kylee (the organizer who makes sure we all have a good time when we are together). This group makes me feel like I belong and that I am surrounded by others like me.  Our goal was to help foster a community with the Peace First Challenge Teams over a three-day period.

As the Challenge Teams entered the ballroom they were quick to connect with others and wanted to start working right away! Peace First is super process-oriented so we started with getting to know each other in “human bingo” and other icebreaker activities.  In this room we had 13-year-olds from the Bronx talking to 21-year-olds from Yale about the issues that mattered to them. Young people were speaking on behalf of age old issues in unique and innovative ways; curriculum about peace and tolerance, neighborhood watch programs, technology to donate to those on free and reduced lunch programs, safe spaces for women of color, and so much more. Each team harnessed some of the most difficult times of their lives and used it as a catalyst of change. They used courage, compassion, and collaboration to create long-lasting change in their communities. Peace First brought the best of the best to the rally - from the Fellows with years of experience, to the facilitators who have more developed perspectives of the road blocks teams may be facing, to the judges who could give great feedback on each project.

Though this was called a challenge, the entirety of the week was about process and community. Our internal goal was to help team members first develop themselves and then develop their projects. The loving and supportive community we have harnessed in the Fellowship was what we were creating with each team. To work with each individual and learn about their story and background was the best part of the week. Hearing their stories were inspiring and drove each of us to reevaluate what we are contributing to our communities.

We are the unsung leaders of today. We are changing our own situations. We are changing the world. We are changing the narrative around young people. We are Peacemakers.

Check out images from the Rally here.

International Women's Day

Today is International Women’s Day, so in honor of this day, we’re highlighting the Peace First Challenge projects working to empower and support women.

The Hopes and Fears for our Future

For every hateful comment she’s heard, Azanta Thakur also tells the story of a supportive friend.
— Azanta Thakur

As the inauguration approaches and we continue to process and understand...EVERYTHING, it's essential the voices of our young people are heard. Check out this piece by CNN's Masuma Ahuja, who captured the stories of a few young people across the country: Coming of age in the Trump era

And if you feel like you need to do something, anything, check out The Peace First Challenge - a call to action for teams of young people across America to create powerful solutions for issues in their schools and local communities.

A Successful Peace March at 186th Street School: Wise Owls Shout, “Happy Birthday Dr. King… Let Peace Soar!”

Below is an account of the most recent annual Peace March held by 186th St School in LA, written by school principal Marcia Reed:

Our 12th Annual Peace March, "Stepping Out for Peace," was held on Friday, January 13, 2017, and it was a memorable event for the Wise Owl Nation!  After a full week of rain, the sunshine created a day filled with the magic of excited students, caring teachers, supportive parents, wonderful community leaders, and fabulous law enforcement officers to highlight our theme of peace.  This year the Peace March was held to celebrate peace in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday; to kick off our annual Peace First Community Service Learning Projects which go hand in hand with President Obama’s charge to promote a spirit of service; to honor local heroes who have served and are serving our country; and to release 20 doves to symbolize our commitment to peace.   The students and staff were very proud to share their pledge and commitment of working together to make the world a better place by creating peacemakers and not peace breakers.

A sea of smiling students and staff members wearing Peace First t-shirts, beautiful peace signs, and loving parent and community ambassadors adorned the assembly area.  The march opened with the inspiring recording of the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King.  Srgt. Sandoval and the Jr. ROTC from Gardena High School led the flag salute followed by Maree Reed singing an inspirational rendition of the national anthem. Next, Mrs. Reed, the Principal, and the students welcomed all of the parents and community leaders with the 186th School Cheer.  Then several guests encouraged our students with their remarks and presence to promote peace including Director Lee Lee Chou (LD South Superintendent), Al Smith (Toyota Financial Services Vice President), Senior Lead Officer Frank Lopez (LAPD Harbor Division), and Officer Reagle-Breault (LAUSD School Police).  The children shared the Six Pillars of Character and their Peace First Chant that asked everyone to “work together in peace, walk together in peace, love one another, and live together in peace!”  Next Aimee Yamada played a taiko drum solo while the Peace Ambassadors presented American flags to all of our military heroes and law enforcement officers.  Then the highlight for many of our children began when our heroes gathered around a basket filled with 20 white doves and Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard from the U.S. Navy released the doves.  The audience shouted, “Happy Birthday Dr. King…Let Peace Soar!” and the doves soared to the sky. The children waived good-bye to the doves as the music echoed, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!”  The Gardena High Jr. ROTC and the Peace Ambassadors led the March.   Next the children walked the perimeter of the school with their beautiful peace signs, singing their melodious peace chants, and renewing their commitment to live peaceably with all people.  As the children walked by the Toyota Technical Center, the engineers and staff waived to encourage the students to be the best they can possibly be.  Every student was congratulated with a high five for their commitment to live in peace by the district leaders, community friends, law enforcement officers, military heroes, and parents.  The spirit of the day was captured in the eyes of the children as they sparkled with enthusiasm for peace.

The Peace March empowers the school community to take a stand as activists, advocates, and ambassadors for peace.  We gave our students an active learning experience to compare and contrast our school neighborhood with the neighborhoods in which they live.  Our hope is that this activity posed questions and developed ideas that will spark our children to commit to doing something different to ensure peace in their communities.  The day was a wonderful expression of the school and community coming together to celebrate peace.

The Peace March was covered by Channel 7 ABC Eyewitness news.  LAUSD School Police and the Los Angeles Police Department – Harbor Division ensured the safety of the march.