©2008, Ramona K. Silipo. All rights reserved.
THE PEACE EMPOWERMENT PROCESS HELPS PEOPLE TRANSFORM VIOLENCE INTO CREATIVITY
The World Wall for Peace transforms the lives of people, both children and adults, through the training developed by World Wall for Peace founder Carolyna Marks. The process comprises two distinct sections, the Peace Empowerment Process ®, (PEP) and the Blueprint of Emotional Wisdom®. The PEP gives people simple, repeatable techniques which allow them to dissipate anger and the impulse to react violently; and to respond to violence or the threat of violence with creative thinking and compassion.
The PEP focuses not on unlimited freedom of the self, but on the free choices available to the whole individual in the context of a vital and responsive community. In contemporary American education and culture, “self esteem” is often overemphasized to the detriment of individual responsibility and service. We are one with other people, and in the PEP self esteem is not emphasized to the exclusion of these other important aspects of balanced behavior. The objective is for people to grow together; to be interrelated, not singular; to live creative individuality without sacrificing community.
In nearly thirty years of peace work, Carolyna Marks has observed lasting changes in attitudes of both children and adults with whom she has worked building peace walls. Participants who learn the Peace Empowerment Process relate moving experiences of recognizing the transformations in their own consciousness and emotions.
The listing of Peace Powers, one of the first exercises in the PEP, leads children to redefine, as valuable abilities, qualities often seen as weak or “wimpy.” By writing them down and reading them out, children see and own as powerful skills such as listening, drawing, or being persistent. In one school, a very quiet girl at the back of the classroom amazed her teacher by raising her hand, eager to read her list of Peace Powers to the class. The girl had never seen her quietness or her thoughtful nature as powerful until then. The teacher told Ms. Marks that the girl was the shyest child in the class and was literally transformed by learning the PEP.
The Walk-a-Mile exercise opens compassion and empathy. The procedure is to pair off from the circle and listen very closely to the story of another person’s experience; then to return to the group and become the other person, to relate your partner’s story in the first person.
In a recent PEP workshop, a mid-forties African American man and a sixteen year old Chinese boy were partners. The boy related that he had come to the United States when he was about five. He said that, although his whole family, seven children and his parents, all lived in one room, they were a close, happy family, even though they were poor. His father, who regularly went out with friends on Saturday night, one night went out as usual, and was shot and killed in an argument with his friends.
It completely changed the boy’s life: He began to steal and was arrested, but fortunately was placed in a program in which he learned from career prisoners what it would be like if he ended up in jail. The experience woke him up and started him back toward a more constructive life.
The African American man had been raised in minister’s family, and rebelled dramatically against his father as a young man. As he matured, however, he found great respect for, and began to understand the power of, his father’s ministry and ideals. The black man and the Chinese boy both lived in a neighborhood where friction between their two races was a daily fact of life. But they bonded instantly and intimately when they realized their lives were not so different from one another’s. Both had a fundamental change of attitude through experiencing the other’s story.
In working with the second component of the PEP, the Blueprint of Emotional Wisdom®, children learn to look at their own emotions and identify the source of their anger. Marks’ work is based largely on the concept that underlying all violent actions is anger; and under anger are fear, guilt and grief or disappointment.
In one session, children began spontaneously to share their grief by telling stories about the deaths of dogs and cats, grandparents, an aunt. These were very emotional stories, filled with anger, fear and guilt. Soon a wave of tears swept through the room. All the children were crying because the schoolroom had suddenly become a safe place for them to express their feelings freely, without teasing or bullying by classmates. The teacher later reported that for the next several days the children were extraordinarily kind to each other. One boy had a sister who had recentlydied, and didn’t know what to do with his feelings about it. After his Peace Empowerment training he decided to draw and write about it. Children do make creative choices when they have the ability to identify and work through their anger in a non violent manner.
N.B. November, 2010. Carolyna Marks, the founder of the World Wall for Peace, has been ill for many months now, and the future of the organization and its programs is uncertain. Her book, Creativity in the Lion’s Den, is the handbook for the workshops and can still be found through searching Abebooks. com.