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Lions Roar : May 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2011 36 during a chance meeting, thurman mentioned this aspiration to drew katz, a new Jersey philanthropist. “i found this idea of a peacemakers conference on the east coast utterly inspiring,” katz told me, “and i suggested newark as a place to do it—be- cause of the incredible challenges the city has faced in terms of violence and poverty, but also because of its dynamic and pro- gressive mayor, cory booker.” the mayor was delighted by the prospect, as was the dalai lama. convened by tibet house and the drew a. katz foundation, the newark Peace education Sum- mit will take place May 13 to 15. it will feature more than thirty presenters from diverse backgrounds who will guide participants through an exploration of how peace can be cultivated in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, cities, and the world at large. on the occasion of this important meeting, i talked to peace- makers in newark— where, as a result of this summit, new forms of urban peace activism will undoubtedly be added to the work already being done there—and in oakland, a hotbed of activist groups bringing together inner and outer peace. the people i spoke with in each place stand in for scores of others who are doing work that focuses on housing, food security, at-risk youth, education, environment, and social justice, as well as many other areas. as oakland youth worker chris Mckenna told me, “there are so many groups these days who bring some form of reflec- tion or contemplation or mindfulness into their work, even if it’s as simple as ritual periods of silence or gestures that recognize everyone’s value and dignity. our various groups see ourselves as interconnected, networked. we’re making a soup together, and awareness is a key ingredient. we encourage fundamental curiosity toward life and question views we’ve inherited about food, housing, economy, justice. we don’t just try to fix things to make them fit a version of what the city should look like from the outside. we discover together what it could look like from the in- side.” those who look at these communities from the outside are viewing them with a wide-angle lens and they see mostly pain and dysfunction, and they are afraid. the peacemakers witness the faces in close-up, and see beauty and an indomitable human spirit, and they are inspired. newark iS known as brick city, some say for all the brick high-rise housing projects built there in the sixties. Many people know it only as the home of one of the major airports serving new york city, or as parts of the backdrop for tony Soprano’s drive during the title sequence of “the Sopranos,” which pokes plenty of fun at newark. but brick city is a very real place, with a population of about 300,000, which is now starting to grow slowly after the exodus and long decline that followed the 1967 Mayor Cory Booker talks with a Newark resident after Booker’s early morning run. Photo©MichaelchriStoPherbrown/corbiS