There was a packed house at the SCMA Summer Soiree.
This was a special opportunity for networking at a beautiful USC Gould School of Law venue with h d’oeuvre on the outside patio as the sun set. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Cloke/Millen Peacemaker of the Year Award presented by Ken Cloke to recipient Forest Whitaker.
In his presentation remarks Mr. Cloke commented that in addition to his exceptional career as an actor, Mr. Whitaker’s commitment as an activist is impressive. Not only did he create the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI)with projects in the US, Mexico, Uganda, and South Sudan, he is a UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace.
He next commented on the similarity of work of WPDI and Mediators Beyond Borders (MBBI). Both organizations are currently in Uganda and South Sudan, where the WPDI launched a sport center and a computer center in a strategy to promote peace-building at the local level and MBBI is brining Trauma Informed Peace Building Skills to the grass roots.
Cloke added “Having worked myself in Africa and other places around the world, these tiny little things we can do make an enormous difference.” “It’s a great honor to be identified with this award, and an even greater honor to have it bestowed upon someone whose work is so profound.”
He closed with this observation about the impact of individual efforts in peace building: “You can count the number of seeds in an orange, but you can’t count the number of oranges in a seed.
Mr. Whitaker shared that he grew up in South Central Los Angeles and saw many of the kids he knew “…drawn into lives of gangs and drugs and violence, and (he) saw how it robbed them of their futures.” He further observed that “to truly transform a conflict, change must come from within…you have to engage that person as an active partner in his or her own development.”
In creating WPDI he “wanted to build a network of youth peacemakers and mediators
who could act as positive transformers of their communities and countries…” Using the metaphor of working on his grandfather’s farm he reflected on how important it was to protect the seeds you plant to ensure their growth and development and by analogy if “we fail to engage our fellow citizens as partners and peacemakers and not nuture the seeds, then around them weeds will grow and take root…weeds of violence,
extremism, racism and intolerance can sprout through cracks in an sidewalk..penetrate the walls of any seed and corrupt its very identity.
He quoted Desmond Tutu who said: “Do your little bits of good where you are. It’s those bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Then Mr. Whitaker closed by acknowledging the importance the work done by mediators stating that “…mediation can be fundamentally an act of goodness.
Through mediation, we can help individuals come together to find moments of human understanding.”
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