April 30th, 2015, I had the honor to attend an intimate gathering of Baltimore, Maryland, community leaders and youth activists in the presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It was a powerful,
open-hearted conversation regarding the civil unrest and violence in the city, following Freddie Gray's death. The intention was to understand all perspectives on what was contributing to the escalation in violence, and identify peaceful and sustainable solutions going forward.
The event, organized by the International Association for Human Values (www.iahv.org) with the Art of Living Foundation( www.artofliving.org), was held at the International Center for Peace in Washington, D.C., founded by Sri Sri.
Freddie Gray Jr. had been arrested for what Baltimore police alleged, was an illegal switchblade. He had fallen into a coma from spinal cord injuries proven to be sustained during transportation in a police van. The 25 year old eventually succumbed to his injuries and passed away, April 19th, 2015.
Chaos, violence, looting and the burning of businesses had escalated to a fever pitch the night before Sri Sri arrived in Washington, D.C. The Governor of Maryland declared a state of emergency, calling in the National Guard and invoking a night curfew to protect the citizens.
The meeting was short yet impactful. Sri Sri listened intently, giving each person in the room an opportunity to share his/her perspective on the current situation.
"The distribution of government resources to start a business is unfair. We need to create equality in how the funds are handled so that young people have a chance as entrepreneurs," said one young social activist and small business owner.
|Patti Montella & Youth Activists|
" The media is sensationalizing the situation. They're filming in areas that have been abandoned for years to create fear around the curfew. Yesterday I watched the police harass people who were just trying to walk their kids safely home, " said a young woman, active in the community.
The dialogue ensued with an honest and practical sharing that focused on how to proceed, in peace, in order to bring about sustainable happiness and peace for everyone in Baltimore, including the police department.
It seemed as though the meeting ended too quickly as the topic was deep and the need great. Sri Sri had yet another flight to catch with thousands in North Carolina awaiting his arrival along with never-ending list of global concerns to manage. He's become quite a magician when it comes to time management on a global scale.
He has a special ability to maximize the time he has with people to clearly see all sides of a situation, identify peaceful solutions and inspire leaders to take skillful action.
As good fortune would have it, I was joining Sri Sri on the flight to North Carolina. I hurried to grab my suitcase, pausing halfway down the stairs to soak up the scene in front of me. Huddled together at a small dining table, the event attendees and organizers were chatting animately about how to bring the Art of Living and IAHV programs to the Baltimore community.
Today, I received the good news, that programs are happening already in tandem with community leadership training.
May 1, 2015 the Baltimore City State Attorney Office filed criminal charges against the six police officers believed to be involved in Mr. Gray's death. May 3rd the night curfew was lifted and protests continued peacefully. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a full-scale civil rights investigation into Baltimore's police department.
The New York times reported the Gray family saying that they were satisfied with the charges. “We must seize this opportunity to reform police departments throughout this country,” said the family’s lawyer, William H. Murphy Jr.
Non-violent conflict resolution among people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions is possible in affecting positive social change. It works.
Ghandi led the way in the past, along with historical figures in the United States including: leaders of the women's movement, Martin Luther King Jr. , Harriet Tubman and the U.S. Labor movement.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is leading the way today.
In the past, I've felt like a tiny drop in the ocean when it comes to making a difference in the world. Now it's clear ; all it takes is one person willing to inspire and lead the change we all want to see.
|Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baltimore Community Leaders,Filiz Odabas-Geldiay|
HOW ARE YOU LEADING THE CHANGE TOWARD A NON-VIOLENT SOCIETY ?
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
A FEW SUGGESTIONS ON HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY
Ø As an educator, youth or parent, support programs in school, to provide education on how to safely release stress and nurture human values such as kindness, compassion, sincerity and a sense of belonging. www.iahv.org
Ø As a veteran, family member or concerned citizen, support programs proven tO alleviate stress and trauma, without the use drugs. www.projectwelcomehometroops.com
Ø As a global citizen, learn how to meditate and take responsibility for your own mind and emotions in order to foster greater peace and happiness in your self, your family and community.
Ø As a business leader, get engaged and partner with like-minded organizations to facilitate global dialogue and skillful action, to build wider public trust in business through corporate ethics based in human values and social responsibility.