Be a Voice, Not a Victim, March for Peace With Chicago’s Youth

I recently graduated from Perspectives Charter Schools, where we prepare for college with rigorous academics and once again this year, we are on track to have 100 percent of our graduates accepted to college. But more important, at Perspectives we learn how to be good people, people with values. We learn how to be young, ethical leaders. At Perspectives, we have a class, “A Disciplined Life,” in which we learn 26 principles such as compassion, wisdom, and conflict resolution. We learn to develop positive self-esteem, healthy relationships and the tools for productivity. It empowers us to stand up for what we believe in. It empowers us to stand up for peace. Two years ago, we had a discussion in our disciplined life class about a boy who was shot and killed after a basketball game. I realized that many people didn’t care about violence unless it really hit home for them. If we are going to stop violence in Chicago, we need everybody to care. So we started the “ I Am For Peace” movement to share how the principles we’ve adopted can bring peace to our communities. We started with a peace march on June 5, 2014, with more than 2,000 students, families and community members marching down State Street. We also raised more than $35,000 on Kickstarter to support an “I Am For Peace” documentary. The documentary features U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and award-winning performing artist Jennifer Hudson and helps show young people how they can bring peace to their communities. We premiered the documentary last fall, and have been screening the film at schools, churches and other community organizations throughout 2015 to keep the movement alive. On May 28, the film made its broadcast television debut on Chicago’s PBS station WTTW 11. What I have learned from this movement is that one voice can make a huge difference. What started as a comment in my disciplined life class has led to a movement with thousands of supporters. We would love to work with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to brainstorm and implement solutions to bring peace to our city. We invite him to include the voice of youth like ours so we can help think through possible solutions, like job creation, access to basic services, supporting and sustaining community centers with more adult mentors to provide support for teens, and so much more. We need more young people joining together to stand for peace, and we need more young people learning the principles of “A Disciplined Life.” There will be a “I Am For Peace” march on Friday, June 5. Participants will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the corners of 24th and State Streets.  
Janeya Cunningham is a 2015 graduate of Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy. She will attend DePauw University this fall as a Posse Chicago scholar.
Photo courtesy of Perspective Charters.
Janeya Cunningham
Janeya Cunningham is a 2015 graduate of Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy. She will attend DePauw University this fall as a Posse Chicago scholar.

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