Chicago youth aim to curb violence with lessons from Asia - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Peace Builders aim to curb Chicago violence with lessons from Asia

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

How far would you go for peace? Local "peace builders" went all the way to Southeast Asia to find a way to curb youth violence in Chicago for The Peace Exchange: Chicago-Asia 2013.

The violence affecting young people in our city has Chicago at the tipping point. The young filmmakers behind this ambitious effort to stop the violence are committed to ending the carnage in their communities. They looked to ancient cultures to learn how we can practice peace here.

"We use art, and also music, to promote [a] better understanding of each other," one man told the group. "In the future, we're hoping there's no racists and violence."

The group traveled to Asia in December of 2013 and documented their trip of a lifetime, to share it with their peers – many of whom seldom leave their own neighborhoods.

Humanitarian rap artist Jessica Disu, also known as FM Supreme, is the founder of The Chicago International Youth Peace Movement. She said one of the main questions they wanted to answer was whether or not poverty is actually the root of violence.

"We're going to go to a place more impoverished than the South Side and West Side," Disu told FOX 32, "and see if [people with] the same lack of resources have people react violently."

What they found was a world of difference, but also a lot in common.

"Even though they couldn't speak English, we could actually communicate with each other through dance, music and acting," DeVry University student Timothy McBride said.

"They were so in touch with the world, but still they had nothing of the world - like they didn't have the material," Chicago State University student Dennis Johnson said. "But there was just so much love and happiness."

McBride, Johnson and Disu are all active in Chicago's growing youth-led peace movement, as nothing else seems to be working against the epidemic of youth violence in this city - the senseless killing of mostly young black men.

"We're filled with anger, like ready to explode," Johnson said. "So I think that we need to find that appropriate approach to reach them."

The Peace Builders communed with monks, nuns and members of the community in places like Myanmar to learn about a culture of peace that survives poverty and conflict.

"If we understand their difficulties and their sufferings, then we become friends," one girl told the group.

"That's how we change the world," another woman said. "That's how we change the violence."

But how can the peace Builders apply these lessons in Chicago?

"A lot of times it's just conversation," Johnson said. "It's a hug, love, maybe we share our music, maybe we share with social networking. We all can be reached."

"So if we can find a way to connect with the bully, maybe he might stop," McBride explained.

They plan to use art and performance as a universal language halfway around the world. The leaders of Chicago's peace movement hope to find a voice of reason that can be heard here at home.

"Our main message is peace building is a practice - it's not going to happen overnight," Disu said. "We have to practice being peaceful ourselves and even in our schools."

The next stop for these "exchange" students? To take their 15 minute documentary to neighborhood schools and share their message of practicing peace. They hope to inspire more young people to become peace leaders – Peace Builders – and reach 1,000 of them by spring.

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