Ahimsa: The End of Violence, Our Summer Series on Violence Prevention, kicked off at Abbott Park in Roseland

On Friday, June 15, SAAPRI and the Kalapriya Center for Indian Performing Arts, in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, conducted the first in a series of Night Out in the Park events titled “Ahimsa: The End of Violence.” The event was held in Abbott Park, located on the far south side of Chicago in the Roseland neighborhood, and consisted of a dance performance by Kalapriya artists and students from Joyce Kilmer Elementary and John J. Pershing Magnet School. The performance was followed by a panel discussion consisting of community leaders who reflected on the themes of violence and justice.

Anil Methipara (SAAPRI), Meghal Sheth (SAAPRI), Rupali Pingle (Kalapriya), Devika Dhir (Kalapriya), and Dhara Puvar (SAAPRI), at Abbott Park for the summer’s first Ahimsa event. 

This program was truly a unique approach to combating violence in our communities as it brought together traditional Indian dance, international storytelling, students from different backgrounds and different Chicago neighborhoods, and reflections from the community. The Kalapriya students performed narrative dances depicting three different stories from Ancient Greece, 19th Century America, and Ancient India, with each story serving as a meditation on nonviolence and justice. “The dances were thought provoking, and it was wonderful to see a multicultural group dancing; it was a great conversation about multicultural peace brought to the Roseland neighborhood,” commented Michael LaFarague, who was instrumental in bringing the event to Roseland.

The performances aimed to bring communities together and build bridges between different cultures and neighborhoods. Given the segregation in the city of Chicago, it is rare that South Asian culture and community members are present in Roseland and other neighborhoods on the far south side. Dr Williams Briggs Jr. appreciated this aspect of the event, saying, “It was a great performance, something that combined cultures. I thought it was good to see this in our community. It shows the Indian culture and how dance can communicate different stories.”

Panel discussion moderated by Dhara Puvar (Executive Director of SAAPRI) with Michael LaFarague (Park District Advisory Council for Abbott Park), Dr. William T. Briggs Jr. (Dr. Elzie Young Community Center and Red Line Extension Coalition),and Ashley Smith (Program Coordinator at Kilmer Elementary School). 

During the post-performance panel discussion led by SAAPRI, the panelists built off the common themes that emerged during the different stories, touching on the choices that individuals can make between peace and violence. However, they also stressed the larger structural forces at play that contribute to the emergence of violence, noting that violence is often not something that people intentionally seek out and that tackling structural economic deprivation is a means toward nonviolence. The Ahimsa performances were valuable in helping frame these problems and orienting the audience toward thinking imaginatively about peace. On the takeaways of the event, Ashley Smith explained that “events like Ahimsa are important to the conversation when discussing topics such as violence and racial equality. The stories are allegorical. We must constantly retell them and pass on the messages we want our children to inherit.”

Missed the Abbot Park performance? Two additional “Ahimsa: The End of Violence” events are scheduled this summer!

Be sure to join SAAPRI and Kalapriya by RSVPing to the following events: Friday, July 13 at 6:30 pm at Shedd Park (3660 W 23rd St, Chicago, IL 60623) or Friday, July 20th at 6:30 pm at Oz Park (2021 N Burling St, Chicago, IL 60614).

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