Visit the Cities of Peace website.

Young people in Chicago and Phnom Penh are separated by language, culture, and nearly 9,000 miles of Pacific Ocean. What aligns their experiences are shared histories of state and interpersonal violence and generational trauma.  As we mark the fortieth anniversary of the Khmer Rouge genocide that took the lives of nearly one in four Cambodians, a group of Chicago activists organized under “We Charge Genocide” are petitioning the United Nations to recognize a global epidemic of police violence that disproportionately impacts young people of color in marginalized communities.

Cities of Peace connects the struggles of young people in Chicago and Phnom Penh as they organize to transform harm caused by state and interpersonal violence and create community healing. Youth Peace Fellows in Chicago and Cambodia are interrogating the roots of structural and relational violence through the lens of history at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and the Peace Institute of Cambodia.  Over the course of two years, youth have participated in an international exchange through which Chicago Peace Fellows visited Cambodia in April 2015 and Cambodian Peace Fellows visited Chicago in July 2015. The exchange centered histories of state violence and community resistance featuring local historians, human rights advocates, legislators, community organizers, artists, as well as survivors of violence and trauma. Both visits culminated in a Youth Peace Summit through which young activists shared their experiences and presented a collective platform for international solidarity.

During the second year of the initiative Peace Fellows are working in partnership with the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce to develop a trauma-informed critical curriculum which will include original research, lesson plans, community organizing techniques, arts interventions, and interviews from program participants in Chicago and Cambodia. This curriculum will be launched at the Teachers for Social Justice Curriculum Fair and distributed in print and digitally to local, national, and international educators and youth workers in partnership with the Cambodian Peace Institute and the International Sites of Conscience.

Peace Fellows will support the production of a documentary film created in collaboration with Free Spirit Media which will be a companion to the curriculum and act as a powerful counter-narrative to popular media representations of young people of color. This film will be shared nationally and internationally at youth, human rights, and social justice film festivals and conferences. In addition, Peace Fellows will develop a web series featuring local artists, activists, and scholars speaking about issues explored in the curriculum. These vignettes will present personal stories and connect the content explored in the curriculum to concrete examples of oppression and resistance within the students’ communities.

After the release of the film and curriculum, Peace Fellows will partner with local artists, activists, and scholars to facilitate a series of teach-in’s which will utilize trauma-informed popular education methodology to educate and organize their peers around issues of state and interpersonal violence on the local and global scale. These teach-in’s will be facilitated at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, within Chicago Public Schools, and at a variety of cultural, historic, and organizing sites throughout the city.

Finally, Cities of Peace will partner with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials to launch a call for Memorials of Resistance. Guided by architects, public artists, and activist, this call to action will invite groups of young people who have participated in the teach-in series to conduct their own research and submit proposals for Memorials of Resistance honoring individuals and communities who have struggled to interrupt and transform state and interpersonal violence on a local and global scale. These proposals will be included in the Chicago Reparations Legislation public memorial building process and exhibited at the Chicago Art Department and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in September 2016.

Artwork by Damon Locks.