Chattanooga may soon be the home of the second Global Gandhi Center for Nonviolence,according to an announcement by Dr. Arun Gandhi-the grandson of peace advocate Mahatma Gandhi-at last night’s City Council meeting.
Gandhi is in town on a weeklong tour and spoke to Chattanooga City Council members at their regularly scheduled meeting. His presentation culminated in the City Council’s adoption of the proclamation of “A Season for Nonviolence.” More than 400 other cities in the United States participated in the annual six-week period between Jan. 30 and April 4-bookended by the assassinations of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.-with educational, arts and interfaith programing.
Although Gandhi admitted that the announcement may have been premature, as few concrete details have been established, he said Wednesday before giving a talk at Baylor School that he is hopeful.
“The city itself is a beautiful place, and the community here is very warm,” Gandhi said. “Mainly, the people are the backbone of the institute, and you’re going to need dedicated people to do this, or it won’t work. [People here] are very dedicated and enthusiastic, and that’s half the battle.”
The global reach of Gandhi’s mission to carry on his grandfather’s legacy began with the founding of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at Christian Brothers University in Memphis in 1991. It moved to its current home at the University of Rochester in 2007. In 2008, Gandhi launched Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute.
The center in Chattanooga would be only the second of its kind in the family of Gandhi organizations. According to Gandhi and Missy Crutchfield, administrator of the Chattanooga Department of Education, Arts and Culture, it would combine education and activism in an effort to connect the existing and new resources working toward ending violence in the Chattanooga and contributing to the global conversation on nonviolence.
Crutchfield pointed to potential funding coming from local foundations and city-, county- and state-level government commitments. The next steps in this still-developing idea, according to Gandhi, will involve establishing the legal basis of the center and identifying the organizations and funding sources to help realize the center.
“This Global Gandhi Center for Nonviolence can be in this Southern city, in Chattanooga,” Crutchfield said. “Make no mistake, what we want to build here is a global center that can inspire cities around the world, bring in global figures and then send out messages of ‘If we can do it, you can.’ We can be the change.”