Medha Majety is a member of the Richmond Youth Peace Project, which teaches middle school and high school students to share methods of nonviolent conflict resolution with other children and teens. The program, now in its second decade, has trained several hundred young people to become leaders for peace and social justice. It is one of the key programs of the Richmond Peace Education Center, which has been working to build a more peaceful, just and inclusive Richmond since 1980, and is a collaboration with Drums No Guns. Medha shares some of her experiences as a leader in the Richmond Youth Peace Project (RYPP).
In my experience of being a RYPP youth facilitator, I think I have learned more than that. I have taught to the participants in the workshops. When I led my first workshop, I was 13 years old, and the participants were around 16-18 years of age. At that moment, I knew there was no way I could possibly teach these people something. They had seen and experienced more in life than me. However, that didn’t stop me from trying.
I integrated my own view into the conflict resolution activities and made it personal for the participants. The participants reacted positively to my explanations and gave examples of how they could have avoided silly conflicts just by understanding the importance of a relationship and by believing in their own opinion. In doing this, I had managed to lift the voices of shy participants, and encouraged them to participate. This workshop helped to transform me from a shy kid to an outspoken leader. I learned that my words can be impactful and I can spark change in anyone. More importantly, they can spark a change in me. This was the first opportunity that the Richmond Peace Education Center’s youth program would bring me. Since then, I have led several other workshops, participated in a radio segment, talked to Dr. Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), and currently serve as a board member for the Peace Center.
As part of Dr. Arun Gandhi’s visit to Richmond that RPEC co-sponsored in April, some of the Richmond Youth Peace Project leaders were invited to meet with him. I had the opportunity to speak about the Peace Center and RYPP’s contributions to the community. We asked questions, and also performed an Indian classical dance on the podium. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the grandson of a visionary and legendary leader.
On another occasion, I was interviewed on WCVE-FM. We talked about our experiences leading conflict resolution workshops. It was not until the recording aired that I realized the impact the Peace Center and RYPP workshops can have in our community.
I have been associated with the Peace Center for over two years now. This year I have joined the RPEC’s board as the youth spokesperson. This is another unique opportunity I was given to use skills I have learned from workshops as I work cooperatively with other board members and help with finances, strategy, and promoting our organization.
I also participated in two Generation Dream performances honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students from various cultural backgrounds, ethnicity, and race participated in the shows. I was the RYPP spokesperson and had the opportunity to describe RPEC to the audience. I also took part in a classical Indian dance performance. We also had opportunity to see others perform and learn about other cultures. This “edu-concert” taught me to be confident and proud, especially during performances.
RPEC has changed the way I see the world, and made me into a warrior – leading not a fight but a movement to build a just and inclusive community for the future generations. I learned how to effectively dismantle a conflict, preserve relationships, and cultivate new ones. The Peace Center has taught me that there may be power in many, but influence in one. –Medha Majety