Gandhi Visits Alton Park, a “Forgotten Community”

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“The Worst Form of Violence Is Poverty”—Arun Gandhi

 AP 1Recently, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, visited the Alton Park community of Chattanooga, Tennessee to encourage the people there in their efforts toward peace and nonviolence.

“It is a forgotten community,” as Dr. Elenora Woods, D.D.S., and Executive Director of the Alton Park Community Development Corporation calls it. “But we have big plans for Alton Park.”

While the rest of the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee is being revitalized all around, Alton Park seems to have missed the efforts and is organizing in a call for help as they try to emerge from the devastation left by the city’s “industrial revolution.”

Poverty. Illiteracy. Lack of Jobs. Respiratory Illnesses. Cancer. Gang Violence. These are all challenges Alton Park residents are working together with Alton Park Development Corporation to address through environmental revitalization.

Gandhi reminded the community members that “The worst form of violence is poverty” and that if they can work together to address issues of poverty offering residents education and job opportunities, and developing the community gardening program, as they are now doing, these are the first steps toward building peace and nonviolence.

AP 2Alton Park Development Corporation is currently working with permaculturalists Jason Hurd and Rushelle Frazier and a master gardener Horace Hatcher to develop a plan for 8-acres of “Regenerative Agriculture” including community gardens, box gardening classes for children and their parents, fruit and nut trees, cash crops, and the newest urban gardening method—aquaponics—developed by the U.S. government to address issues of hunger in third world countries and now taking off in America’s own urban environment.

Ultimately, Dr. Woods wants to see the agriculture skills acquired by community members not only to feed themselves and their children but also to become sources of income through farm stands and produce wagons.

Alton Park Development Corporation is one of three local partners of GAIA (Global Action Initiatives Alliance), including nationally recognized boys school McCallie which partnered with GAIA’s Boyz Inc. for their community service during a boys leadership camp last summer and recent Gandhi Visit for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. GAIA also partners with Washington Alternative School which participated in “Season for Nonviolence” workshops in 2013 and a recent Gandhi Visit and visioning for peace and nonviolence. Ultimately, GAIA hopes to connect all three local partners in work across the county, in what GAIA calls “Communities of Concern.”

AP 3Gandhi Global Center for Peace is a core initiative GAIA will be working with Arun Gandhi to develop. GAIA CEO Missy Crutchfield says the vision for the Global Center for Peace is to partner with schools and community centers around the world to further Gandhi’s legacy of peace and nonviolence. “Why not start here, in my backyard?” she added. “That’s where real peace work has to begin anyway.”

Arun Gandhi shared as his visit in Chattanooga concluded, “When working for peace you need to look at all the aspects of violence and what contributes to it. Economic depression is part of the culture of violence we as a society have created. All of these issues comprising the culture of violence will be addressed by the Gandhi Global Center for Peace.”

Learn more at www.gaiaworldwide.org

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