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4785Re: Lessons for Kwanzaa from Pyramid of Peace

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  • Andrius Kulikauskas
    Dec 27, 2010
      Janet Feldman, Pamela McLean, Samwel Kongere,

      Thank you for your thoughtful responses to my project for the
      African-American cultural holiday Kwanzaa to present and consider what
      we learned with the Pyramid of Peace to avert genocide in 2008 in Kenya.

      I did get a booth (for $350) at the Kwanzaa festival at the Malcolm X
      community college. The festival is seven days long; tomorrow will be
      the third day. It's quite pleasant in that the booth holders around me
      have become friendly, even though I am unusual here as a "pale-skinned"
      person, as my friend David Ellison-Bey would say. They enjoy my art.
      So far I drew about sixteen portraits, letting people take photos of the
      portraits for free, and buy the originals if they like. In this way, I
      sold two originals for a total of $16. So it's not promising as a way
      to make a living, at least not of itself.

      I'm taking the opportunity to create a larger project. One direction is
      to depict people's deepest values as "superheroes" so that children and
      others might better identify with them. I can create "playing cards"
      and also make spaces where I can draw in people's faces, or they can put
      in a photo of their face, thus taking them up personally. I have a
      printer and a camera with me. I hope to complete some such project by
      the end of the festival so that something useful comes out of it.

      I was thinking of painting a backdrop that represented a crosssection of
      Kenya from Lake Victoria to the Rift Valley to Nakuru, Naivasha and
      Nairobi, with lakes, villages, roads, farmland and slums, where I could
      talk about various episodes we went through, perhaps also connecting
      with cyberspace and episodes in the South Side of Chicago where I gained
      practice in nonviolent engagement. But I didn't have much time to
      prepare and the Pyramid of Peace doesn't seem too relevant for me right
      now. What's relevant for me is what I'm going to do with my own life,
      how will I apply myself to note and share the ways of figuring things
      out as the basis for a culture of truth, the kingdom of heaven, how will
      I work with God, and how will I make a living in this world? I intend
      to explore these questions with drawings and words and engage others to
      think alongside me about their own lives. Perhaps you online might like
      to also.

      This year I stopped my efforts as a social networker and got a job as a
      tutor to regroup, start repaying my loans ($130,000) and think through
      what I might do in the long run so that I might work from the Lithuanian
      countryside, support a family, but also apply my thinking to organize
      the kingdom of heaven. This fall, however, I stopped getting more
      students from my employer because I think and say that it's
      counterproductive for parents and students to focus on homework and
      tests. I need to find another way to make a living, which for me is
      hard, because I've grown very skeptical that there is honest work, at
      least any kind that would allow me to earn $4,000 a month so that I
      might make my loan payments and pay off my loans.

      Meanwhile, God keeps telling me to do what's relevant for him, which is
      applying my many creative talents to express and share the hundreds of
      ways of figuring things out that I've noted this summer and fall in
      Lithuanian. A nice example is my Christmas card "Do you recognize
      Jesus?" which I made of portraits that I drew
      It illustrates one way of figuring things out, which is listening to a
      person as if God were speaking through them. I'd like to do hundreds of
      such projects. This one was also a rather successful fundraiser for my
      church choir, as 14 people donated $25 each for me to draw and include them.

      I don't know if God is going to lead me to bankruptcy and even
      homelessness, which would not be so bad if I could make sense of it. So
      I'm going to think through and make explicit the logic of my principles
      and also engage God more so that I understand what might he want.

      Today I purchased a book "Gamestorming" by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and
      James Macanufo. http://www.gogamestorm.com It's relevant for me because
      games, I think, are the ideal form for communicating the ways of
      figuring things out. They focus on games that unleash business
      innovation in collaborative settings, whereas my own ways are generally
      activities that I do on my own.

      I look forward to sharing my thoughts as I develop them. I welcome your
      letters likewise.


      Andrius Kulikauskas
      +1 (773) 306-3807


      Dear Andrius and All,

      Wonderful to hear from you, and what a fantastic and meaningful way to
      approach both Kwanzaa and our Pyramid of Peace project. There are some
      important and timely linkages that can be made between them, in
      particular reinforcing personal and communal values that can be found in
      Africa, the African Diaspora--and descendents thereof--and around the world.

      There are many artists who have responded creatively to what happened in
      Kenya in 2008, and this project will help to carry on that legacy. In
      fact, there is an article on the ActALIVE website that I wrote on that
      subject, called "Rising from the Ashes: Kenyan Artists and Peace
      Activists Re-Create Community from Conflict," which was a feature story
      in the arts and development journal, "artishake", Issue #8. If you click
      onto the "Art4Development" page of our site, and follow the link at the
      bottom of the page, the full article is also there.

      I hope that many of us will contribute creativity and thoughtful spirit
      to your own project. Engaging people via expression of their deepest
      values is marvelous, and can show the universality of hopes, fears,
      love, anger, and so much more that motivates and informs human behavior.
      I'm sure that specific connections can be made between Kenya and the
      south side of Chicago, both in terms of how violence comes about, and
      how it can be ameliorated if not transformed.

      There is also a terrific project that is building bridges between
      Brooklyn, USA and Kenya: called Brookenya, it is another example of how
      the local can become the global, and vice versa, especially via
      creativity. See http://www.brookenya.org I know the
      creators-organizers, if anyone is interested in being in touch with them.

      On the Kickstarter note, a recent film on HIV/AIDS, men, and
      condoms--about which I posted to Holistic Helping--was helped by the
      Kickstarter project. A $10,000 amount was raised to translate the film
      into another African language (it is already in several African
      languages), so that several million more people can more easily
      understand the messages of the film. Kickstarter is a great facilitator,
      and I hope you and we will be able to utilize it accordingly.

      Peace and conflict are still very present in the Kenyan context (as they
      are worldwide) as issues, and what happened in 2008 might still occur
      again. This is why the peace-related efforts of individuals and entities
      remain so imperative, and lessons from the past are so important to
      (re-)learn and apply to the current time.

      With blessings and happiest holidays to all, and a fervent hope that
      there will truly be peace on earth, as well as goodwill to all wo/men.
      Love and greatest appreciation, Janet


      Hi Andrius

      I wish you well at the celebration of Kwanzaa, sharing lessons from
      Pyramid of Peace. I have copied your letter below.

      I agree that Pyramid of Peace (PoP) was a wonderful initiative - both
      for what it did and for how it did it. The archive (of all the emails
      and the chats and the fund transfers) is outstanding. There are so many
      lessons to be learned from it - and relevant to so many different

      Academics and "us"

      I think PoP should be a topic for serious academic research (and I
      believe that the value of its archive will be recognised at some future
      point). There are so many lessons to learn from it. However I seriously
      wonder how long it will be before the academic community sees the
      research potential of PoP (and other on the ground initiatives).

      I was at ICTD2010 last week - with a personal agenda of "better links
      between academics and practitioners". There were interesting discussions
      there about collaboration - but it seemed that the practitioners were
      reaching out to academics far more than the other way around. I am
      learning lessons about this and increasingly recognise that even if
      academics do wish to engage with practitioners the systemic barriers
      preventing them from so doing are considerable.

      Funding mechanisms

      I re-learned what I already knew - that academics, like many others,
      are trapped by funding mechanisms that - from my view point - are
      archaic and which reward people for answering "the wrong kind of
      questions" and measuring "the wrong outcomes" - far too much support for
      "Hooray for my thingy" type of work (ICTD2010 - Research needs from a
      developing world perspective and ICTD2010- Let's Bridge Those Divides
      by Pamela McLean and Dadamac - the Internet-enabled alternative to
      top-down development )

      By the way - the "funding mismatch" is why, at an early point I
      abandoned my own attempts to get any formal direct funding. I decided it
      would be less frustrating if I just plodded on with no funding but
      plenty of freedom. Obviously if I saw a funding opportunity for what I
      do I would take it - but I am not wasting time trying to sqeeze myself
      into funding strait-jackets that don't even come close to fitting. I
      stayed with the balancing act of minimising my paid work (and my related
      discretionary income) in order to maximise the discretionary time I had
      available to spend on my "information-related activities - learning by
      doing and discussing with others". (I didn't do it as extremely as you
      did. I was more financially cautious in the continuing attention I gave
      to a certain minimum of paid work.) Regarding funding I didn't want to
      waste time chasing money to do things that would be fixed in advance in
      some tick list that never really reflected what I was trying to do anyhow.

      Of course we need money, and it is frustrating to see it go on things
      that we don't value, especially when it goes on things that seem to us
      to be a complete waste of financial resources (and a waste of brain
      power too in the case of academia) - but until those with money start to
      see value in our wealth of information there is little we can do - other
      than to live as best we can in the two parallel societies:

      * the information and knowledge one (where we continue to get
      richer and richer in information and knowledge)
      * the material one - where we need to engage in ways that at least
      cover our essential material needs

      Peer groups

      I also understood, before ICTD2010, that academics seem trapped in a
      system which is heavily reliant on "academics impressing each other" -
      publishing in peer reviewed journals, writing in each others books,
      going to each others conferences, getting more and more visible in the
      academic world.

      To a visitor like me, the academic world seems a weird mixture of
      co-operation (creating and sharing knowledge) and competition (competing
      for funding and for personal career advancement). I don't really
      understand it.

      I do know that in "my world" - learning online, in a self directed way,
      it is a world of sharing openly (to the nth degree in your case:
      including very personal hopes and circumstances, more cautiously in my
      own, sharing knowledge and my learning journey). We do not have
      peer-review where information is only shared if our "peers" agree that
      our information is "worthy of publication" (although we do have some
      moderation, to keep out spammers and other 'inappropriate content").

      Instead of filtering through peer review we share our information freely
      in online spaces where it costs nothing to share information - and (I
      would suggest) our "peers" are the people who have an interest that
      overlaps our own. If "our peers" value what we write then they will read
      it, and share it, and comment on it. If they don't then it will fade
      away. It may be that sometimes we are only writing to ourselves. That is
      okay too, if by making the effort to put something in writing we learn
      something that we did not know before.

      As a learner, interested in exploring new "socio-tech" knowledge and
      insights, I loved the freedom of Minciu Sodas as a place to learn. I
      think that, for me, the greatest value of Minciu Sodas was the fact that
      I was encouraged to "think aloud" - without having to frame carefully
      what I was going to say beforehand, and without having to find someone
      else's discussion group that (more or less) overlapped some portion of
      my own interests and concerns. My peer group was simply people who
      wanted to exchange information with me. (At some point Andrius I would
      like to explore the overlaps between our past shared work in Minciu
      Sodas, and your developing work now, and my present and future work in

      Separate disciplines

      I now discover (through the ICTD2010 keynote on Wednesday morning) that
      it is difficult for academics to co-operate with each other, if they are
      in different disciplines - never mind trying to connect with people
      outside who have practical overlapping interests. It seems that people
      in one discipline write to one kind of journal, and people in another
      discipline write to another kind of journal, and so on, and that
      somehow, "never the twain shall meet". If that is so, then it is not
      surprising that there seems to be little connection between ICTD -
      research and ICT - real-life, except through a few exceptional individuals.

      Quoting and answering Andrius

      Andrius' email (copied in full below) ended "What lessons have we
      learned, large and small, thinking back? What stories would we like to
      tell? Who would we like to hear from? What creativity might we
      contribute to express our stories? I will tell my story, and certainly,
      I hope you might tell yours, likewise, in the Public Domain, for all to
      share creatively.

      I'm glad to hear from us!"

      Sorry I have not really addressed your questions Andrius - I just
      responded to the "glad to hear from us".

      You may also be glad to know, regarding openness, that session 4108 at
      ICTD2010, organised by Laurent Elder of IDRC-CDRI was on "Open
      Development" - they are moving away from ICTD programmes to Open
      Development programmes. See www.idrc.ca/en/ev-131099-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html
      and www.idrc.ca/en-133699-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html. So maybe things are
      starting to move in a direction where there will be more overlap between
      researchers and open practitioners. They were talking about trying to
      get people to make "open" the default rather than the exception.


      Posted to Dadamac's Posterous by Pamela McLean email

      For more about people or organisations named in my posts try -

      Dadamac - Integrating Education and Development in Africa and Online. We
      introduce people. We help them to work together or to learn from each
      other. How can we help you?

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      or privately by emailing me
      Did you get this "open letter" sent to you as a personal email? If
      so.you may wonder what happens when you reply. If you "reply to all"
      including post@... then you will get a reply from posterous
      (inviting you to use posterous). Your reply will only appear on
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      Your email address - Even if I post to you and to posterous at the same
      time, your email address will not show on posterous.

      Twitter - http://twitter.com/pamela_mclean and #dadamac Website -


      Ok thanks Andrius & All,
      The lessons for Kwanzaa from pyramid of peace! Good, we were sitting
      down with Ken Owino at one time in one city slum in Nairobi and decided
      to have a pyramid of people which changed abruptly to "pyramid of peace"
      at envergence of election violence in Kenya 2008. Our values at MS Lab
      had the purpose and goal for peace, start by making a list of all the
      goals that values upheld. The list doesn't have to be in any particular
      order, but it is sometimes helpful to put them down in logical in
      logical groups. The result will be a very long list of goals like values
      the pyramid of peace project we underwent unrecognized. And there is
      nothing more frutrating or discrouging than to presend a long of items
      and being asked to rank them in values, say one through hundred! The
      mind can't hold all the information.
      Besides, you are comparing each item with the other 99, and as soon as
      you identified one goal as number one value (motivation through
      sacrifice), it automatically means that all the rest are less than one.
      And life doesn't work that way, does it? Motivation and Personality.
      Therefore: there is no reason why we have one value that will make our
      top priority. We are more likely to have a number of goals/goals, all of
      which we consider 'number one'.
      There is 'must do' or very high value, 'should do' or medium value, 'can
      do' or low value.
      Ok Andrius, i wish you well in the Kwanzaa Lessons for bringing the
      pyramid of peace to another limelight and audience" can we, make
      'pyramid of peace trust' international?


      Hi from Chicago. I'm going to have a booth at the Malcolm X celebration
      of Kwanzaa, which is an African American cultural celebration that takes
      place from December 26th to January 1st.

      Perhaps you'd like to add your thoughts and your creativity to my project?

      As an artist, I'm going to depict the lessons I and others learned from
      our stories of the Pyramid of Peace to avert genocide in Kenya in 2008.
      Recently, accusations were made in the International Criminal Court
      against six men suspected of fueling ethnic violence.

      I and others understood at the time that somebody was deliberately
      fostering the violence and we responded to good effect. I will tell my

      As I tell my story, I will focus on *how* I and others learned and grew
      and shared. I will also highlight our values at play, notably, our
      deepest values in life. I will be drawing people's portraits and
      depicting their values and showing how they might imagine themselves in
      our story. I will draw human figures with which I can also describe the
      events so we can discuss them. I will make photos and videos and that
      will help tell the story.

      Kwanzaa celebrates seven basic values of African culture:
      * Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family,
      community, nation, and race.
      * Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name
      ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
      * Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our
      community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our
      problems, and to solve them together.
      * Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores,
      shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
      * Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and
      developing of our community in order to restore our people to their
      traditional greatness.
      * Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we
      can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than
      we inherited it.
      * Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our
      parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of
      our struggle.
      the above is taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa see
      also: http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org

      I'm going to focus on the values that we exhibited and note how
      Kwanzaa's values came into play, rather than the other way around. I've
      collected answers from hundreds of people about their deepest values in
      life, and I'd like for people who come to think about their own and see
      how theirs fit in among others, like stars in the sky, each seeing the
      whole sky from their own vantage point. Kwanzaa is a new celebration
      that I imagine is still finding its way. We lived through a profound
      victory in Africa that inspires reflection on values.

      In particular, I will note how the lessons I learned about engaging the
      violent in the South Side of Chicago were key for our success in Kenya.

      Monday, I will speak with organizer Jessica Holloway about my ideas. We
      already discussed that I might lead video bridges with Pyramid of Peace
      participants in Kenya and around the world. I also think there might be
      broader interest that could lead to support for a Kickstarter project
      that I might organize to document our stories, and ultimately, to apply
      our experience in new challenges.

      What lessons have we learned, large and small, thinking back? What
      stories would we like to tell? Who would we like to hear from? What
      creativity might we contribute to express our stories? I will tell my
      story, and certainly, I hope you might tell yours, likewise, in the
      Public Domain, for all to share creatively.

      I'm glad to hear from us!


      Andrius Kulikauskas
      (773) 306-3807
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