Mahatma Gandhi Peace Walk in Texas

"The International Week Without Violence"
April 2 - 7, 2001

The International Day Without Violence was first held in Austin, Texas in 1996. In 2001 we are planing a full week of activities.

The Week Without Violence promotes the practice and study of the processes of peace. It provides opportunities to focus on alternatives to violence, teach strategies for resolving conflict, and create community, locally and internationally. Our goal is to celebrate and propagate nonviolent methods of positive, people-centered social change, to advocate societal structures that cultivate peace rather than violence, to encourage the study of peace and justice as central to the educational agendas of our governments, our communities, and our schools. To honor those who went before us, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.--beacons leading us towards a more peaceful world. This is an opportunity to connect with others, and through work and love, bring the message of nonviolence into our own hearts and to the world.

The theme for the 2001 Week Without Violence is:

Mahatma Gandhi, the World's Greatest Proponent of Nonviolence
How He and His Culture Have Influenced Our World

The International Day Without Violence was created to encourage individuals, schools, religious organizations, and other social, environmental, spiritual or political groups to conceptualize, sponsor, and promote events that encourage people to think about and act to implement alternatives to violence. Suggested activities:

1) community-wide or campus-wide or neighborhood-wide teach-ins focusing on strategies to make the world a less violent place;
2) discussions in classrooms, religious organizations, social and service clubs, or other forums across the community led by individuals who are concerned about developing greater public awareness of techniques of non-violent conflict resolution-a sort of C.P.R. course for the soul;
3) finding creative ways to express your desire to make our community a violence-free, hate-free zone for the day, week (and forever!);
4) celebrating alternatives to violence in creative venues and events, for example: concerts, art exhibits, street theater, essay contests, poetry readings, inter-generational panel discussions, dances, concerts, candle light processions, rallies.--whatever has potential and is locally appropriate;
5) obtaining endorsements and support from renowned individuals, business establishments, the media, student and faculty organizations, your boss, the administration of schools, civic organizations, religious groups, financial and business institutions, the city or state government, all those concerned peace in our world-include these sponsors in your planns;

6) highlight contributions of people in other cultures who have brought us closer a non-violent world.

Since its inception, the International Day Without has had the endorsement of the mayor, the police, and many of our elected officials in Austin, Texas. The International Day Without Violence and the 2001 Week Without Violence are organized by Peace Works! (PeaceWorks operates under the 501C3 umbrella of: Peer Assistance Network of America, Inc. (PAN America). Donations are tax deductible.

The Day Without Violence is celebrated on April 4th. That date was chosen because it is the day that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The violence that occurred in that ignoble moment silenced a powerful voice proclaiming nonviolence as the only valid method to achieve social justice. Dr. King's vision was not extinguished by the darkness of the crime and the brilliant truth of his message is an inspiration and a method that can guide concerned people everywhere to work towards social justice and a more peaceful world.

The Day Without Violence was launched in 1996 in Austin by a few educators and activists who wanted to help make the world less violent. As individuals we may not feel that we have much power to effect change, but collectively, we can make a difference. Since 1996 thousands of people in dozens of locations around the world have used this week in April to organize events celebrating nonviolence. Some activities in previous years include: week-long series of events sponsored by Lanier High School in Austin--yearly since 1996; a "Poetry in the Schools Project" in Taos, New Mexico--students wrote poems about peace with a reading on April 4; Social Studies classes turned their rooms into museums for nonviolence and invited the community to visit; at the University of Haifa, Arab and Israeli student got together to do folk dances; the Gray Panthers, a progressive senior citizens organization, sponsored an inter-generational dialogue with teens and their parents; a high school Spanish club sponsored a symposium on respecting diversity; a dance was held in Chicago with the theme: "Think Globally, Dance Locally"; religious groups had special "Candle Light Peace Services"; victims' rights groups participated; seminars and symposiums were held; essay and poetry contests in English, and other languages, on nonviolence with the best published in the local newspaper and academic scholarships offered to winners; children at an orphanage in Croatia sent paintings to students at Lanier High in Austin, TX. who wrote letters back to them; theater groups and musicians and drummers participated; media outlets publicized activities; a school in Dhaka, Bangladesh made posters about nonviolence to decorate the school. The International Day Without Violence encourages events that are an appropriate and joyful expression of the community.

In April 2001 the Week Without Violence will celebrate Mahatma Gandhi's contributions to world peace. Mahatma Gandhi developed methods and theories to help us nonviolently stand up before injustice and intolerance. His ideas were grounded in his cultural roots--the ancient traditions of contemporary India. He was a guiding inspiration for the nonviolent movement led by Dr. M.L. King. Jr.

The theme for the 2001 Week Without Violence is:

Mahatma Gandhi, the World's Greatest Proponent of Nonviolence
How He and His Culture Have Influenced Our World

To promote the study of Gandhi's ideas, PeaceWorks! is issuing a call to the students of Austin Independent School district to submit creative writing and art work that focus on the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

International Week Without Violence
April 1-8, 2001

Arun and Sunanda Gandhi's Schedule

April 6, 2001- 9:30 A.M.
Lanier High School Assembly for International Day Without Violence
Topic: "Understanding Nonviolence"

2:00 P.M. at University of Texas - One speech for all AISD middle and high school students
Topic: "Lessons I Learned from Grandfather"

7:00 P.M. at University of Texas -One Speech for the Austin community
Topic: "Why the Gandhi/King Dream Remain Unfulfilled"

April 7, 2001 10:30 A.M. -One speech at the state-wide march for nonviolence at the State Capitol
Topic: "Gandhi and King's Dream - A Season of Nonviolence"

7:00 P.M. -One speech at First Baptist Church - City-wide Ecumenical Service
Topic: "Nonviolence or Nonexistence - Options for the 21st Century"

Anncouncing the
6th International Day Without Violence
2001 Essay and Art Contest
sponsored by PeaceWorks!

This year's theme:
Mahatma Gandhi, the World's Greatest Proponent of Nonviolence
How He and His Culture Have Influenced Our World.

Suggested entrees:

Creative Writing (Poetry, Essays)
Art (paintings, drawings, collages, multi-media events)
Dance or dramatic performance


Entries must be sent to: Nancy Lehmann-Carssow (414-7449) Lanier High School, 1201 Payton Gin Road, Austin, TX 78758, by 4:00 P.M. March 23, 2001. Winners will be notified by March, 30, 2001.

An open letter from Jane Nethercut and Nancy Lehmann-Carssow from PeaceWorks! (Jane and Nancy are teachers at Lanier High School in Austin Texas.):

Our community lost its innocence on December 6, 1991, when four young girls were murdered in what has come to be known as the "Yogurt Shop Murders." The tragedy especially effected Lanier High School where the girls attended classes or were involved with programs offered. Since to date no one has been convicted of these crimes, the community and Lanier slowly began to lose their hearts over the years. Lanier became an area infested with gangs, drugs, and violence.

Acting upon a suggestion by friends at the University of Texas, a nonviolence campaign was introduced to Lanier in 1995. It focuses on April 4th, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, as the International Day Without Violence. During the week, speakers are brought into the schools to talk on everything from domestic violence and drugs, to personal experiences in civil wars and cruelty to animals. Community-wide contests are held in art, poetry, and music for elementary, middle and high school students. White ribbons are given to students and staff so they may write messages of peace and nonviolence and tie them to a peace symbol. Thousands of school children sign pledges of nonviolence and place them in a container on the capitol steps. A tribute is paid to victims of violence.

The effect on Lanier High School was overwhelming. Altercations decreased, peer mediations went up. Lanier was healing. By 1997, Lanier was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School for Excellence. Word was quick to spread about Lanier, and schools began inquiring about the program. To meet the requests, coalitions were built and collaborations were established. Today six school districts with 52 schools and over 50 social, government, religious, law enforcement and service organizations participate in the week long activities.

In the past, Mitch Wright, husband of Shannon Wright, the teacher killed in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998, and Dr. Joseph Lowery, mentor of Martin Luther King Jr. and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, have spoken in schools and churches in the Austin community. This year, we have been encouraged to bring Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, to the Austin area. Last year some of the school children were able to hear Elia Gandhi speak at the University of Texas. The response was enormous. Students said they felt as if they had "touched history." Teachers reported an new excitement for studying Gandhi and India. Others explored Gandhi's influence on Martin Luther King. Many called dismayed at having missed the event at UT.

This year we would like to give more of the Austin community the opportunity to "touch history" and listen to some one who, like his grandfather, made nonviolence a way of life. Unfortunately, many teachers and administrators see nonviolence activities as "fluff"--something covered if there is extra time in class; however, when the Gandhi name is mentioned, educators exuberantly welcome the opportunity to expand students' knowledge about an area and an attitude. Gandhi's name is synonymous with wisdom!

Because of the enthusiastic response to learning more about Gandhi and India, we have decided to make the theme of this year's observance, "Gandhi, the World's Greatest Proponent of Nonviolence and How He and His Culture Have Influenced Our World." We are encouraging students to make Gandhi and India the subject of their entries in our essay, poetry, music, art, and photography contests. Additionally, students will create displays comparing Gandhi and Martin Luther King which emphasize Gandhi's influence on Dr. King. These displays will be showcased at our central administration building, the Austin Teachers Credit Union, the Austin Children's Museum, and in all the local schools. Other museum displays will feature India and Indian culture, and students will do a variety of other projects which highlight India's contributions to the world. Already, word has leaked out and local businesses are calling to ask if they might display some of the students' work.

We are also planning a public speaking engagement for Mr. Gandhi at the University of Texas. This will be free to the public, and we anticipate many thousands of attendees. This event will be publicized through the Center for Asian Studies, the honors programs, the history department, and the Peace Studies division of the sociology department. In addition, all events will be advertised in the various newspapers, on TV, and radio.

In addition to speaking to all middle and high school students in Austin and to the community at large at the University of Texas, Mr. Gandhi will speak at our statewide march and rally for nonviolence on the steps of our State Capitol. This event always gets massive media coverage and most of the state will hear part of his address. Finally, on Sunday (April 8th), Mr. Gandhi will be featured at an interfaith service at a downtown church.

We feel that by providing such wide and diverse venues for Mr. Gandhi, we can reach the most people, and help him present the wisdom of his grandfather and the wonderful contributions India has made to the world and mankind.

We are grateful to the Infinity Foundation for generously helping us to bring Mr. Gandhi to Austin. We know that everyone who participates will have a much deeper appreciation for and clearer understanding of India and of Gandhi and his timeless wisdom.

Gratefully yours,

Jane Nethercut and Nancy Lehmann-Carssow
Lanier High School
Austin, Texas