Peacemaker Campaign at Chicago High School


By Ruth Boggs

Each week in Chicago we hear the statistics.

How many have been shot.  How many have been killed. Over time we can begin to lose sight of the humanity of those involved.

This year the students at Bowen High School – the oldest high school on the south side of Chicago – decided not to lose sight of this humanity.

They made an ofrenda.

An ofrenda is a collection of personal momentos placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de Muertos – Day of the Dead -- celebration to remember family and friends.

It is especially painful when we remember those who have died before their time.  By remembering, students from Bowen’s art class and maker-space worked with the trauma of loss. They discovered that traces of these remembered lives stay with us. They remain in our hearts.  We tell stories, and stories have the power to heal.

 The youth voice of this ofrenda is clear and strong. It calls for justice.

It is in this spirit that we at Bowen move forward with hope in joining the chorus of Campaign Nonviolence to end violence. All of us deserve the justice of a peaceful community.

Bowen is a small learning community of three-hundred students. We started making the ofrenda last September 21st, the United Nations International Day of Peace, and worked to put it all together by early October. More than 50 students participated in the construction of the ofrenda by making paper flowers, collecting photographs, and decorating picture frames.

 Inspired by this process, Life Directions – a local peer-to-peer peacebuilding organization -- launched the Bowen PeaceMakers Campaign.  This initiative includes creating a series of posters highlighting community and school-based peacemakers. The name “PeaceMakers” reminds students and teachers that peacemaking is part of “maker-centered learning.”

Bowen students — long known as the Boilermakers — are now also the “Bowen PeaceMakers”!

Life Directions promotes the transformative dynamic of “Peers Inspiring Peers” in neighborhoods, high schools, and middle schools in Chicago and elsewhere.  Ruth Boggs is working with Life Directions this year at Bowen High School.

Life Directions in Chicago has annually organized an action as part of Pace e Bene’s Campaign Nonviolence Week of Action. For several years, DePaul University students taking Ken Butigan’s course entitled “Discover Nonviolent Chicago” have engaged in service with Life Directions, including building an environmental-friendly “butterfly way station” at Bowen this past September.  Life Directions recently surprised the Pace e Bene organizer with one of its posters from the “Service Day” at Bowen.

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