By Francesca ScaraggiSPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
On Thursday, Oct. 2, the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives and Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement sponsored the University’s celebration of the International Day of Non-Violence. Established by the United Nations in 2007, this day celebrates the work of Mahatma Gandhi on his birthday.
Professor Linda Longmire of the global studies department introduced the event, discussing the background of Gandhi Day. Executive Director of the Alliance Margaret Melkonian encouraged the audience to think deeply about issues of war and peace in the U.S. today. She reflected through the lenses of greats such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
“…What would they say about terrorism,” said Melkonian, “…About Ebola? About global climate change… What would they say about billions of dollars in war, but cuts for food stamps?”
She reminded the audience why the past is celebrated – to invigorate in the present so that “we…shake the world and change it.”
History department Professor Michael D’Innocenzo introduced Maxwell Corydon Wheat Jr., “Walt Whitman of Long Island.” Wheat recited a poem about the Vietnam Memorial and the people he observed visiting the site. He first shared a mourning poem concerning the Iraq war, especially relevant as the United States re-energizes the war effort there.
D’Innocenzo, the Harry H. Wachtel distinguished teaching professor for the study of nonviolent social change, spoke about the work of Dr. King, especially as it affected Long Island. He reminded the audience that the path walked by both Gandhi and Dr. King was difficult – true non-violence is an acquired skill – but that the power of their ideas and lasting legacies cannot be overstated. He said to offer people truth and fact and they will respond accordingly.
Denisse Giron, coordinator for the Alliance, introduced the special performers for the evening, the Peace Poets, a collective of five spoken word and hip hop performers from the Bronx, speaking out against injustice, speaking for positive societal change and inclusion. Throughout their performance the Poets engaged the audience. Luke Nephew reminded attendees of the continuing struggle non-violent protestors face in Ferguson, Mo., firmly connecting past and present.
“I am extremely moved by this and I feel very emotional right now because I believe in the power of words… I try to teach this to children I work with with… words are magical… I’m going to meet them,” said Nassau Community College student Hannah Duffin.
Like Duffin the Peace Poets are educators; their love of teaching, for their students, and for sharing their beautiful works truly shone in their performance.
The Poets spoke at length with many of the attendees following their performance. Abraham Velazquez plugged in with students through social media, documenting the night through selfies on Instagram.
Incredibly encouraging, each member of the collective had only words of support for students. Frank Antonio Lopez wishes students to “speak up, that’s all, just speak up. Your voices are needed.”
Emmanuel Candelario reminds students to “start where you are… to root yourself in your community. The place where you are is perfect to start.”
And for those students just beginning to recognize the tumulus society around them, Frantz Jerome wants you to know that “if you’re going about your everyday life – don’t be alarmed. You’re sane and the world is crazy.”