Social work students hold event to promote peace

by Kelley Yurecko

Jacki Millar knows a thing or two about forgiveness.

While visiting a friend in rural Wisconsin during fall 1995, she was shot execution-style in the back of the head by two teenage boys with a .44 magnum handgun.

Now legally blind, Millar has dedicated her life to convincing others to live peacefully and learn to forgive, just as she has come to forgive the adolescents who nearly took her life.

Millar was one of several speakers at the Promoting Peace event who addressed students Sunday in the St. Paul Student Center.

Students in the Community Organizing and Advocacy class at the School of Social Work organized the event as part of a class project to help people cope with life after Sept. 11.

“The main reason we chose to do something together is the magnitude of the events surrounding Sept. 11 and especially given the United States response of choosing to respond to violence with ongoing violence,” said Ben Anderson, a third-year graduate student in the master of social work and master of public policy programs. “We chose to try and highlight alternate ways of managing situations that are worldwide catastrophes.”

The program featured booths set up by organizations, including the Center for Victims of Torture, Friends for a Non-Violent World, Minneapolis High-Rise Representative Council, Women Against Military Madness and other groups.

WAMM was established in 1982 and is a nonviolent, feminist organization whose purpose is to “dismantle systems of militarism and global oppression,” according to its literature.

“What an empowerment group does is support, educate and take action,” said Maura Sullivan, professor in the School of Social Work.

In addition to the booths focusing on peace, there were Hmong and Korean cultural dances.

“We really wanted cultural events to be a part of it,” said Jodi Graham, second-year graduate student in social work.

The Chang Mi Dance troupe performed several dances, including a Shaman dance, which promotes family prosperity, wards off evil spirits and ensures good fortune.

Sheila Wellstone, working partner of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), is known for her advocacy domestic violence victims.

Wellstone said the event was about families, cultures and different faiths. She said she hoped people would learn and understand more about each other and find ways to work together better than before the events of Sept. 11.

Approximately 100 people from surrounding communities and the University came to listen to speakers such as Millar, searching for ways to live peacefully during this time of strife.

“It is good to offer an event like this to get people thinking of the alternative of getting to know each other,” said Gaius Poehler, a St. Paul resident, “being friends instead of enemies.”

Kelley Yurecko welcomes comments at [email protected]