Purdue Peace Project

Dr. Marrissa Dick | May 22nd, 2018
Purdue Peace Project (Photos by JLG Photography)

Purdue Peace Project (Photos by JLG Photography)

Huami Magazine would like to introduce you to an international project that will be coming to the Greensboro community known as the Purdue Peace Project (PPP). With a four-part series beginning with the May/June 2018 edition, you will learn about the origin of the Purdue Peace Project; what its mission and purpose are, and how the plan will be implemented in our community. You will learn of the community leader who invited the Purdue Peace Project to bring their unique life altering project to the Greensboro community to help eradicate the Black on Black crime rate that is growing at an alarming rate. You will also have a brief introduction to the facilitators of this project.

The July/August 2018 edition will feature the individuals who are involved with establishing the local peacebuilding initiatives. During the September/October 2018 edition, we will highlight some of the local citizens and community leaders who have responded to the invitation to become involved. We will also feature other organizations within our community who are in alignment with the purpose of building a local peace committee. The November/December 2018 edition will share the results of the PPP and highlight many of the individuals who have been impacted by the Project. We ask for your prayers and support as this life changing initiative goes forth.

What is the Purdue Peace Project?
So, you may wonder what exactly is the Purdue Peace Project; who invited them to bring their initiatives to our community; and how will their mission and purpose will be implemented within our community? Well, let us assist you with the answers to those questions. The idea for the PPP began in 2011, following a meeting of the minds between Milt Lauenstein, a Renaissance Man, CEO, Consultant, Educator, Author, Artist, Activist for peace and of course, a Philanthropist and then Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education, Dr. Mohan Dutta. Both men shared the belief that social change should originate within the local communities themselves which would inspire positive change in the world. At the time their initial mindset was to concentrate on eradicating political violence in West Africa. Their mantra is a simple one, “Promoting Peace Through Local Action.” This is done through peacebuilding work on the local and community level. To orchestrate this endeavor PPP will organize everyday citizens to help them address immediate threats of violence within their own communities. They continually monitor and evaluate their projects to maximize their impact worldwide. Then, they share these experiences and best practices with practitioners and scholars around the world to strengthen and promote world peace through local action.
How will this international project transition to Greensboro?

This transition would take place and be implemented by convening groups of local citizens and leaders in community areas where clearly, identified situations threaten to lead to violence, and to encourage and assist these citizens in their efforts to bring about peaceful solutions. In promoting locally driven and inclusive approaches to peacebuilding, PPP believes that it is essential that the participants of the groups be inclusive of the local citizens and leaders within that community because they are the individuals living and working in that culture and already know what it would take for their community to thrive peacefully. Therefore, the Purdue Peace Project desires that their peacebuilding initiatives be locally led.

What is locally led Peacebuilding?
I’m glad you asked that question. Locally Lead Peacebuilding is an approach in which the people involved in, and most affected by, violent conflict work together to create and enact “their own” solutions to prevent, reduce, and/or transform the conflict, with the support they desire from outsiders. PPP offers an inside-out, bottom-up approach that involves mobilizing local capacities, knowledge, and resources. It is an approach to peacebuilding that aims to amplify local ownership of conflict transformation. In essence, the Purdue Peace Project is not the outsider coming into your community and telling you how to solve your problems. In fact, they are quite the opposite. What they actually do is “ask you to tell them” what it will take for you to live safely, peacefully and productively within your own neighborhoods. They want to help you by providing the resources that you determine you need to live holistic and progressive lives. Sounds to good to be true – – but it is true.

PPP’s locally driven initiatives have saved countless lives in Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, and in El Salvador where tribal warfare is real and lasts for unforeseeable years. Greensboro is experiencing its own “tribal wars” with it’s Black on Black crimes. Most of these crimes can be prevented if in fact basic and socioeconomic needs are met. It’s time for the African American to truly “Be Our Brothers and Sisters Keeper.” The Purdue Peace Project is asking us how they can help make that happen. Think about it Greensboro. What would it take for you to feel safe living in your community and what do you believe is lacking? What do you want to see when you walk out of your front door? Write it down and share your thoughts, your dreams, your desires. How do you want to live? Huami Magazine believes you have BIG dreams, BIG wants, and BIG desires for your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren, your nieces and your nephews. Write it down and make the vision plain.

Now that you have been introduced to the Purdue Peace Project and have a better understanding of how it intends to impact the Greensboro community let’s look at the person who implored them to come and implement this project. Most of the local readers may already be familiar with this community leader but for those who are not Huami Magazine would like to introduce you to, Rev. Odell Cleveland, Chief Administrative Officer of Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Greensboro and founder of America’s first faith-based community action agency, the Welfare Reform Liaison Project. What started out twenty years ago in Greensboro,NC in a side annex of Mount Zion Baptist Church has grown into a nationally recognized nonprofit organization with an outsized impact on North Carolina’s most marginalized. Promoting self-sufficiency for low-income families through employment training and the distribution of donated products, Rev. Cleveland built a solutions-driven agency that would come to be heralded as a pioneering model by the head of President Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. According to Rev. Cleveland, “The majority of the people who are victims in Greensboro come from the African American community. No matter how we look at it, what makes these crimes even worst is that these are Black people killing Black people. Being my brother’s keeper is more than a proverbial saying to me. What’s happening in our communities’ grieves my soul. So, when God says Odell, what happened to your brother? His blood is crying out to me from the ground I don’t want to have to tell Him I don’t know. I must do my part in being accountable. That’s why I asked the Purdue Peace Project to come here. The wars that are going on in those villages in Africa are the same one’s going on here in our communities. Those tribal wars are our neighborhood gangs. If Purdue can foster peace in Africa then they can do it here, too. We’re not looking for a hand out. We’re looking for a hand up.”

Next, we would like to introduce you to the key players of the Purdue Peace Project who will be instrumental in facilitating these locally led peacebuilding groups and collect the necessary data for PPP‘s constituents so they can have a clear understanding of the community’s needs. Meet Dr. Kurt Lauenstein, the son of one of the founding fathers of the PPP and a practitioner of family medicine in Greensboro, North Carolina. Dr. Lauenstein shares, “In Africa and El Salvador they’re called war lords and eventually these groups rise to the top and control the whole government but if you look at American society we have the same issues they’re just not as obvious in the same way, but what’s happening is universal and anyone who can’t see that is blind. Once PPP goes into a community they bring awareness through conversations that you can’t keep killing each other and destroying where you live because nothing gets resolved. In order to build harmony, you must feel safe, first. And those who live in the community must be the ones to decide what it means to be safe, what that looks like for them, and how they can make that happen. If you look at the history of the Black community, it’s so rich in culture and it has so much to tell the world about life. PPP is trying to bring the culture of peace back so that the African American community can be the thriving communities they once were. It’s time for Greensboro to change. The suffering and lack has got to stop so humanity can move forward and there are a lot of good people in Greensboro who want to see that happen. They want to see holistic and progressive living, nice restaurants, shops, and public services in East Greensboro that aren’t there now. We need for the community to buy into this concept.” Dr. Lauenstein is sincere when he shares that neither he, his father, nor Purdue are interested in telling the African American community what’s best for them or what this process should look like. What he is offering; is the implementation of the collectives’ ideas by providing the resources through the Purdue Peace Project.

The facilitators of the Purdue Peace Project are Dr. Stacey Connaughton, an Associate Professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University and the Principal Investigator and Project Director and Daniel Kamal, a Ph.D. student at Purdue University also in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and works primarily in the area of Health Communication. Both work together with international peacebuilding teams in West Africa and El Salvador. According to Dr. Connaughton, “All of us associated with the Purdue Peace Project are extremely grateful for the opportunity to help local citizens prevent violence and to contribute new knowledge on locally driven effective peacebuilding.” Dr. Connaughton says that she has witnessed successful outcomes and is hopeful that the same positive talks will go forward with the local citizens and leaders in Greensboro. Huami Magazine has high hopes that the citizens in Greensboro will come together and help make the Purdue Peace Project one that will begin a legacy in our community.

Huami Magazine is fortunate to work alongside Milt Lauenstein, Dr. Kurt Lauenstein, Rev. Odell Cleveland, and the members of the Purdue Peace Project to spread the word about this phenomenal peacebuilding initiative. Milt Lauenstin once wrote, “I believe that while money and rewards motivate us to strive for more, this happens only up to a point. … When I found that I had more than I needed, I decided to use the surplus for a worthy cause.” He also added, “The satisfaction gained from giving financial support to good causes is huge — and multiplied by actively participating in the work.” Due to the good works and unselfishness of philanthropic people Greensboro may have a fighting chance.

Thank you for reading this article and reflecting critically within yourselves what it all means to you. Remember, Habakkuk 2:2-3 says, “2 And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” It’s our time Greensboro. We look forward to the outpour of local citizens desiring to bring their dreams and vision to the table.

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