Following in the footsteps of world-renowned activists and civic & global leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and other influential leaders, the Power of Peace Project, Inc. is a registered 501c3 organization that is committed to redirecting our at-risk youth, reducing the overall incidence of youth crime in America, rehabilitating young inmates, lowering academic dropout rates, and inspiring young people to discover and develop the untapped power and potential within all of us. It is an ideal, put into action in the form of a peace movement that has begun to take roots and spread. Simply put, POPP interrupts and redirects young people who are on a perilous course and sets them firmly on the pathway to extraordinary dreams.
The Power of Peace movement, inspired by the Project, is spreading to schools across the nation, and the 40 Days of Peace series is bringing dramatic changes to this generation of young people. Together, we are beginning to remove the shame and stigma that comes to the families of the addicted and incarcerated, and show that these young men and women can change and prepare to become productive citizens.
The Power of Peace Project was founded in 2010 by our organization’s president Kit Cummings, as he began to carry the message of peace, hope and change into the most difficult places in America– prisons. As Kit spoke to more and more inmates, momentum began to build in penitentiaries across the country. Behaviors began to change, and many of the men that society had left behind and essentially given up on, had rediscovered their personal power and humanity. Some of the toughest prisoners began to strive to become a positive example for their kids and younger brothers. With prison inmates desperately needing a purpose and at-risk young people needing positive role models – the unlikeliest group of individuals heeded the call to action and stepped up to make a change. Administrators, educators, wardens, and officers were all amazed at what was taking place. Peace began to take hold and spread.
On January 18th, 2011, twelve men at a dangerous maximum security prison signed a “Peace Pledge” and set out to see if they could live in peace with the men in Georgia’s toughest prison. 40 Days of Peace, that happened to begin on the 25th anniversary of MLK Day, would continue for the following forty days in that Georgia prison, and peace began to spread throughout the facility– to everyone’s amazement – and even beyond.
Those twelve men chronicled their success, struggles, and failures. Bold men, some of whom are former gang members serving life sentences. They had unknowingly started a national Peace Movement that would continue to spread to many other state prisons and schools across America. The “Seven Step Peace Pledge” that they committed to and the transformation that followed is the subject of Kit Cummings’ second book Forty Days to Peace and subsequent work 40 Days to Freedom. Then 40 Days of Prayer was created to connect the link in wounded communities between schools, prisons, and churches. These men have shown in their commitment to peace, even in the most hostile of environments that Dr. King’s Dream lives on – and that light shines brightest in the darkness.
As those men began to practice a lifestyle of non-violence, other men began to watch and become curious. Word spread throughout the compounds, and inmates began to talk about 40 Days of Peace. Instead of being labeled as “weak”, these men gained a new kind of respect among the prison population. A peace movement had begun, one that these men in their commitment to non-violence toward each other had created, and the prison administration and staff began to take note.
Since that first peace pledge, the POPP has gone to prisons and schools in the U.S., South Africa, Honduras, Mexico, Ukraine, and is now headed for Guatemala.
The Power of Peace Project has now expanded into a community development project which includes a student development program, anti-bullying campaigns in alternative high schools; a media company; corporate motivational programs; along with empowerment activities and organizational conflict resolution programming in wounded communities. The latest development is an explosive peace movement that has emerged in the Michigan and Ohio Dept. of Corrections where well over two thousand inmates have committed to peace and to become role models – not only to inmates across the country – but to a young generation that is losing its way. Kansas, Ohio, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, and Nebraska have followed the Muskegon model and the peace movement is now developing powerful momentum in prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, and schools as well. Whether someone is a tough kid from an inner city school, or a college-prep kid living in the suburbs, it no longer matters – this is not a rich or poor, black, white or Hispanic issue– because believing in the power of peace is a common bond that we all share – and now with POPP, we are collectively putting that belief into action.
POPP Founder Kit Cummings has authored four books, including the award-winning Peace Behind the Wire: a Nonviolent Resolution. He hosts of Power of Peace Radio, and his latest release Protect the Dream takes young people on a forty-day journey of Character and Leadership Development. POPP is turning “Rivals into Role models.”