Gandhi Global Center For Peace CEO & Co-Founder Missy Crutchfield shares in her own words how she first “met” Gandhi, how she met his grandson Arun Gandhi on the “Gandhi Legacy Tour” in India, and how together they are building the Gandhi Global Center For Peace as a global, virtual hub for education and community building furthering Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and peace around the world.
Meeting “Gandhi” in New York City
I remember in the 1980’s when I first saw Richard Attenborough’s film “Gandhi” in New York City. As a young actress who had moved to the city looking for my first big break, excited about my future but also passionate about animal rights and environmental justice activism, I volunteered and helped with many animal rights groups and organizations. My early mentors included Cleveland Amory (American author known as the father of the modern animal rights movement) and Peter Beard (American photographer and also noted for his work on animal issues, and specifically in Africa covering the plight of the African Elephant). The imprint of my New York experience and the people who came into my life left a lasting impact. And watching the “Gandhi” film for the first time was one of those life-changing experiences that I would come back to one day…
Following in “Gandhi’s” Footsteps Across India
Years later, when I visited India in 2011 on a social justice tour led by the Mahatma’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, called “The Legacy Tour: Retracing My Grandfather’s Footsteps” I learned more about Mahatma Gandhi’s teachers and inspirations. Gandhi felt most compelled by Jesus Christ and the “Sermon on the Mount” to the point that he considered converting. One of his famous quotes is “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” In this he speaks of how far many so-called Christians have gone from the true teachings of Christ. Who knows, had Gandhi lived longer, what he would have done? And had he converted, what message might he have carried forward in deeper understanding with us? Just a thought… Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. he was taken away from us too soon, but he left a legacy of love and nonviolence that continues to change the world to this day…
“Gandhi” Visits Chattanooga
When I returned from India, I was working for Mayor Ron Littlefield of Chattanooga, Tennessee at the time. As City Administrator of a brand new department called Education, Arts & Culture which I was tasked to create, I believed it would be a powerful experience for our community to match what I learned from the social justice tour in India with a social justice tour we created for Arun Gandhi’s visit to Chattanooga, and in this way, we could explore solutions to gang violence, domestic violence, bullying, homelessness, poverty, and other issues. So we planned a five-day tour called “Gandhi Visits Chattanooga” where he visited and spoke to students and community members at various sites including a public housing site and community garden (which was created by an African immigrant family), a foster children’s home and runaway boys’ shelter, the local community kitchen for the homeless, our inner city public high school, and one of the top private high schools, among other sites to which we traveled across the community. Since the first “Gandhi Visits Chattanooga” tour, Arun Gandhi has returned several times to Chattanooga to continue the work started, speaking at an alternative school for students who have been suspended or who are on the brink of incarceration as well as a nationally-recognized private boys school where he led conversations on nonviolence, peace, and leadership.
Carrying Forward “Gandhi’s” Legacy Today
The “Gandhi Visits Chattanooga” tour was such a powerful and successful experience that Arun Gandhi and I began discussing the possibility of establishing a Gandhi Global Center For Peace. We officially announced the Gandhi Global Center For Peace in January 2014 as a global, virtual hub for education and community building furthering Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and peace. Since then we have developed a program core focusing on three areas: 1) “Be The Change” Days, 2) “Be The Change” Nonviolence Training, and 3) “Be The Change” Clubs. We also have a full slate of supporting programs, partnerships, and global events as well. Our goal is to use the power of technology and social media to teach students and community activists around the world, and then empower and activate them to help spread Gandhi’s message of nonviolence and peace today. Together we can become the change we wish to see in the world.