By Denny Russell
Each year, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Organization extends the reach of this important event to local schools and universities, asking them to host events that engage their students and the larger community in the spirit of the award. In the past, the Dizney Writing Center has sent out calls for writing submissions based on a theme of peace, culminating in an event called Writers for Peace. Many of those submissions have graced the pages of the Antioch Voice.
However, considering the goals and aspirations of DLPP, we realized that Antioch University Midwest has more people than writers who focus on the promotion of peace through avenues of diversity, awareness, and community outreach. Each of our programs of study asks students to reflect and engage with the world in ways that bring us together. So we thought that limiting our event to writers was doing the larger university an injustice.
As a result, we’ve created a new tradition at Antioch University Midwest, a cross-disciplinary symposium that provides students a platform to discuss the research or activities they’re engaged in with the goal of peace. We had a well-rounded group of presenters in 2014 representing many programs of study, including business management, sustainability, and creative writing.
Whitney Bell read her research pa-per from her Politics of Creative Writing class. She came from a small town community in which she was exposed to stereotypical attitudes toward race. It wasn’t until she attended university that she discovered some of these same attitudes might have followed her. This realization started her on a journey of personal discovery and lifelong education with communities other than her own. Her graduate work in the Independent Master’s in Creative Writing Program will culminate in a novel exploring historical race relations. For more of her writing, check out her blog at whitneybellwriting.wordpress.com.
Donna Peck conducted research for her senior project on mindfulness in youth populations. Having worked with local government agencies in the past, she understood that the goal was to reach kids before they wound up in juvenile court. According to her research, “For the cost of incarcerating one person for one year, we can provide treatment for between 3 and 13 teens every year.” Her product was a mindfulness curriculum that engaged at-risk youth, not only teaching them the value of mindfulness practice, but also how to generate that in their lives.
April Milbry used her senior project as a means of empowering the African American community, both spiritually and legislatively. Her research gathered the tools and processes currently in place for equality among the races, placing them in the hands of those most in need. She read for us a poem on the topic entitled “Human Rights Is a Religion” included on page 7 of this edition.
Senya OjiNjdeka shared his research on the importance of urban agriculture. Necessary foods can be grown on unused or abandoned territory within busy communities, and once harvested, be distributed to the people within those same communities. This not only helps to feed those in need, it also weans us from our dependence on industrialized farming. Senya and his colleague implemented one such garden in a neighborhood between Dayton View and Five Oaks, using the harvest to feed members of that same community. Their work was supported by three members of the YouthWorks Program.
Lisa O’Hearn shared the different events held through her non-profit organization called ICU… Inspire, Create, Unite. Ac-cording to their website, the purpose of ICU is “to strengthen the community by engaging at-risk youth through experiential learning situations that combine history, cultural awareness, and diverse mentoring opportunities.” Groups of at-risk youth have participated in restoration projects for cemeteries, and have also been invited to field trips and community building activities such as meal preparations. Lisa regularly visits schools in order to discuss local history like the Underground Railroad, bringing with her visual aids such as slave shackles, prepicked cotton, and a replica of a slave quilt meant to act as a roadmap for those slaves fleeing captivity. For more information on ICU, you can visit their website at http://www.icudayton.org.
Because of the success of this event, Antioch Midwest will hold future symposiums each year during the month of November. If you are a student at Antioch and are currently engaged in research or activities that promote the advocacy or welfare of your community, we’d like to hear from you. The work you do toward these goals is important, so we want to provide you a platform to share it with like minds. Please contact the Dizney Writing Center at (937) 769-1657 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for future participation.