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  • Writer's pictureKevin Shorner-Johnson

On Violence and Hope

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

The violent events of this week in our Nation’s capital have made clear the damaging impact of violent rhetoric, the danger of isolated truths and fragmented connections, and the continuing violence of white supremacy and hate. This is a moment for deep reflection about the ugliness of hate and the ways in which the traumas of our past and the violent disconnection of our present are made manifest in culminating events of violence.

This offers a time to reflect on all the moments where violence has been countered with love and connection over the last four years.

When President Trump campaigned to become president of the United States, his campaign brought along with it expressions of hate for Muslims. In response to that period of hate, a good friend and I organized dinners between 2 churches and the local Islamic community center. With over 100 people in attendance, we chose a different way of being, a decision to break bread together and spend time building connections of love and trust.

Then when the lens of hate turned toward immigrants and Dreamers, we organized a potluck dinner between Dreamers and church members of varying political persuasions so that we could fully humanize the stories of Dreamers. This broke the boundaries of politics and attached human faces to the cost of hateful rhetoric against the generic language of “immigrants.”

When political leaders turned away from the needs of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria, we organized a concert event that would embrace and affirm the dignity of Puerto Ricans through Bomba y Plena. Thought laughter, shouts of encouragement, and the relentless, energetic drive of Puerto Rican music and Los Pleneros de la 21, we created a different space. A space that affirmed the dignity and beauty of Puerto Rican culture.

Since that time, I have sat with 22 individuals in deep podcast conversations, met with many of you in our professional development network, and spent time with our first cohort of music teacher/peacebuilders. I am continually inspired by all the ways you are already pursuing the work of “reclaiming space for connection and care.”

Today, I think of all of my fellow teachers who reach out to the students who are feeling the anxieties of the present, doing the quiet, often unheralded work of care. I think of health care workers who enter spaces of danger, grief, and exhaustion to enact their passion for helping others. As I hold the grief of this week and the harm of a global pandemic, I simultaneously hold the hope of community, knowing the expanse of compassion that resides in those who choose to repair the world one step at a time.

We build peace by modeling a different way. We build peace by organizing communities. We build peace in journeys of companionship and ally-ship.

Our journeys begin with a single step or a single breath that is infused with the transformative love of connection and care. Bless the breaths we take, and may we keep taking one more step in deep hope, believing that our compassion is deeper and truer than hate.

~ Kevin Shorner-Johnson

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