Re: Lessons for Kwanzaa from Pyramid of Peace
- 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
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
+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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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?
Replies - Respond publicly by posting a comment on Dadamac's posterous
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
posterous if you also post it as a comment.
Privacy and Openness - I only share my own emails on posterous (or ones
I have been given permission to share). I often post my own emails as
open letters, for future reference or general interest.
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
* 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
the above is taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa see
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!