Peace Jam Wins Nobal Prize
Kalamazoo, MI – In the 1990’s, Ivan Suvanjieff was living in Denver – a long way from his rocker roots on the stage at Detroit’s punk rock epicenter Bookie’s 870 Club. What he saw in the gang-ridden streets of Denver though, wasn’t all that different from the culture of violence we see in the Murder City. At the PeaceJam conference this past weekend in Kalamazoo, he told the story of how he came up with PeaceJam – now a worldwide force of powerful change that works with twelve Nobel Peace Prize laureates and has reached the lives of tens of thousands of youth.
In 1994, Suvanjieff ran into some gang members in his Denver neighborhood. By the bulge in the back of their pants, he noticed these fifteen-year-old kids were packing. We all know Detroiters ain’t scared of much – Suvanjieff wandered over to the corner of Thirteenth and Wyandot and asked why they had to have guns. They replied that they were running a business, and it was necessary. He asked if they knew who Desmond Tutu was. They did and they spoke of him with the highest respect. Man, anyone that can stand solidly in the face of oppression and hatred deserves the props. Suvanjieff replied: yeah, but he doesn’t have a gun, why do you fifteen year old kids in Denver need one?
This weekend Nobel Prize Winner Jody Williams spoke at Western Michigan University, and she reminded the crowd that emotion without action is meaningless. Because you believe in an issue or hear about something and get outraged over it accomplishes nothing unless you act. Suvanjieff is a man that acts. Shortly after confronting the gang members in Denver, he came up with the idea of PeaceJam and co-founded the organization with Dawn Engle. Together, they created an international peace education program that works with Nobel laureates to teach kids the way to a peaceful global society.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to sit in on the conference and shadow Suvanjieff, Engle and Jody Williams. What I found out was this: PeaceJam isn’t some idealistic hippie concoction – it teaches a mindset that heightens the quality of life, builds stronger communities, and above all, creates a society of people who THINK for themselves. The enthusiasm and positive energy that Jody Williams generated was breathtaking. Her straightforward, no B.S. approach showed people that Nobel Peace Prize winners are not elitist saints, but people who have taken action in what they believe in and changed the world.
PeaceJam has produced a film that Michael Moore calls “a film every American should see.” The story of a tough former gang member turned PeaceJam worker will fascinate you as will interviews with Columbine High School shooting victims – who were involved with PeaceJam before the tragedy. A fascinating book authored by Detroiter Darcy Gifford has also recently been released (check out page 128 for a photo of Detroit Cobras’ singer Rachel Nagy hanging with Columbine survivor Richard Castaldo). The organization is rapidly expanding throughout the world and there is even talk of a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Imagine the headlines: EX-RAMROD AND EX-CREEM STAFFER WINS NOBEL PRIZE!