The Building a Culture of Peace Film Series takes place monthly in Concord, New Hampshire and is facilitated by Pace e Bene Northeast associate LR Berger. The film series uses the power of film to educate ourselves and others about the history and need for nonviolence practices.
LR is a believer in the arts as a powerful tool for building a culture of nonviolence. She first envisioned the series as a community building opportunity and approached this project with these questions in mind, “How might we use the power of film to educate ourselves about the history and need for nonviolence practices?” And, “What kind of experience would offer hospitality to those who are not already active in social justice circles and movements.”
Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service Northeast now co-sponsors the series with the Concord Unitarian Universalists, the NH UCC Conference Peace with Justice Advocates, NH Peace Action, NH American Friends Service Committee, and Temple Beth Jacob. They started with nine participants for the first film and have grown into an often all-chairs-full gathering of 40-60 participants. Of these, there are a good number of middle and high school students who, when invited to launch into conversation after the films, take breathtaking risks voicing their authentic, deeply moving questions, challenges and concerns.
One of their recurring, outraged questions is, “How come I never learned about this in any of my history classes!” Our films have featured the history of the civil rights movement, campaigns against bullying and homophobia in schools, the power of poetry and song in social justice movements, the history of racism and religious discrimination in America, nonviolent struggles for immigration justice and reform, peacebuilding movements between Israelis and Palestinians, practices of forgiveness, interviews with conscientious objectors, and more.
One of the youth, after watching, “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin,” shared how Bayard’s letting himself get beaten by police “seemed weak.” (Bayard had refused to move to the back of the bus long before Rosa Parks’ more famous act of resistance.
Several other young voices piped up about how this not-fighting-back might be the mark not of weakness but of moral strength. A girl across the circle said she wanted to grow up to become like Bayard: a person with indomitable dignity and courage to stand tall. A young man confessed that he didn’t feel he had the “discipline” that Bayard and other nonviolence heroes had to “not fight back,” When asked if he would like to learn to develop the inner discipline and practices of nonviolence, he said that one inspired word: “Yes.” Others concurred.
And so, in New Hampshire, a free film and conversation series is giving birth to a nonviolence training for young people in response to their inspired yearnings for “another way.”
L.R. Berger is the New England Associate with Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, a member of the NH UCC Peace with Justice Advocates, and serves on the AFSC NH Support Committee. If you would like to start your own film series within your community and would like help or suggestions, we encourage you to contact LR Berger: email@example.com
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