United States 29 July: New York

Voices of Peace from African-American

Peace Runners and Friends

Ganapati is pictured here kneeling second from the left as part of the 1976 Liberty Torch Team.

A Oneness Journey

"In 1976 the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team undertook the "Liberty Torch Run". It would be the first time the Centre did a Run through all 50 states. I remember being so inspired by it, and wished that I had been able to be a part. So in 1981 when they proposed to do a Run through the original 13 states, called "Salutations to America", I couldn't wait to sign up. There would be two vans harboring a day-crew and a night-crew that would leap-frog each other down the road, each running for 12 hours at a stretch, with each runner covering 14 miles a day or night. I knew I had to get in shape for this and I had a few months to do so. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed as Tarak, the organizer of the Run, turned me down. With no such lofty goals, and the pressures of academe weighing heavily upon me, I maintained my miserable output of roughly 3 to 5 miles a week.

Two weeks before the Run, in a conversation with Vijali, the RI Centre leader, I mentioned having been rejected. She was surprised, as she was aware that they were still looking for Runners. She offered to inquire on my behalf, and to my joyous surprise and equal horror, I was accepted! I now had two weeks to go from 5 miles a week to 98. I knew my body couldn't make the adjustment so this was going to be all Grace and Grit! I was terrified and thrilled at the same time. And thus I departed...

I was lucky enough to get the day-van and had a clear view of the gorgeous terrain throughout the journey. The weather too was immaculate. The trip was punctuated with many a peak moment. Like on top of Bear Mountain, when Sri Chinmoy caught up with us, and gave such a blessingful meditation. It was as if the skies had opened up and unleashed a torrential rain of Gratitude. But as the Run crossed the Mason Dixie line, or somewhere thereabout, I became concerned as to how I might be received. You see, there's nothing quite like the Antebellum South, the land of Dixie, and what I knew about the South was mainly from the 6 O'clock news and hearsay. And most of that, wasn't too inspiring. In my mind it was the land of Bull Connor, and George Wallace; Neo-Nazis and the KKK. I was also the only person of color in my van.

On one occasion we came running into a small town. The local residents, for about a mile, had dotted both sides of the road with paper lanterns whose glow gave such an ethereal feel to the occasion. It was exquisitely beautiful. The townies had prepared a feast for us in their meeting house that was atop the firehouse. As we decanted from the van, a white elder lady stood waiting, placing a garland around each neck and giving the runner a warm hug. I was the last to exit and I approached with uncertainty. Without the least hesitation she garlanded me and gave me such a warm hug, and genuine smile. I felt much relieved.

To many, such a thing is an act of little consequence; easily forgotten in the greater flow of events. But I have never forgotten it. It was a small act of oneness. But it is just such acts that knit together the fabric of our society. It is such acts that inspire my optimism and encourage my willingness, to believe. I believe that America is an evolving reality; that what makes America great is that she constantly strives to transcend herself, to reinvent herself. America wants to be better tomorrow than she is today. We may stumble at times and sometimes walk backwards, but the story of America is one of pioneers undertaking the difficult journey of human progress. That determined will, is a ray of light in what may appear to be dark times that we are going through. For that will, that light, America, my heart will always salute you, embrace you, and cherish you. Namaste!"

Grace, Grit, & Gratitude,
Ganapati Coleman

"At this time in life peace is really needed for world harmony. The Peace Run is a very important event for all communities because it brings us together as a oneness family. We are all running for peace outwardly as well as inwardly.
Peace is an inner gift within the heart from God that makes life much happier as well as peaceful."

Rambha Chappell

Pravin pictured here starting his run in the 1976 Liberty Torch Relay.

"The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run is an opportunity for people to help humanity come together as a family. If you believe in the goodness in all people and their ability to change, the peace run is the best way to help.

Peace comes from within your heart and you can spread it. The peace torch is the symbol of peace that can spread by passing it to others.

We are all God's Children and when you do something real for someone, it inspires them to do something real for others. Passing the torch is sharing what you have to others. In this case its Peace: Inner Peace. It involves physical running, passing the torch and feeling part of the world family.You can really feel something that is in you, manifest.

Why children? They are the future. With them feeling and spreading, the World will be transformed into a place we truly like".

Sincerely,
Pravin A. Mimms

Vajra is pictured here behind the children during the 2020 Florida Peace Run

"It was the day of our departure back to New York. We the peace runners had come to Orlando, Tampa, and finally to Miami for a week long peace run journey through the state of Florida to commence the beginning of the US branch of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run 2020. At the motel where we stayed, I arose early, showered and went onto the veranda to sit and meditate on the rising sun. That done, my consciousness soaring, I sat back and began to muse over our journey which had turned into quite an experience like no other. Never had I experienced the cancellation of children’s classes to our Peace Run invites save but a handful few that made our journey successful but not without scrutiny and security.

The covid-19 experience of lock downs, quarantines and world wide awakenings had opened my eyes wide to the Himalayan benefit the Peace Run is offering to the entire world. Every international Peace Run from its very inception in 1987 had been the equivalent of planting peace bombs all over the world. Our teacher, Sri Chinmoy spoke of “the dawning of a new world history”. That time is now. Every child that has been a part of the Peace Run will carry in their hearts the seed form of a peace consciousness which will someday blossom miraculously into a peace tree manifestation."

Vajra Henderson

Bhashwar is pictured here on the left when he visited his homeland of Costa Rica with The Peace Run in 2006. On the right is his sister, Karabi.

"The recent events of racial injustices in America highlight the need for more peace in the world. The many demonstrations that followed were inspiring and encouraging because they were made up of people of all ages and racial backgrounds, and they also resulted in a few unexpected early changes to police procedures in a handful of cities in the country.

The demonstrations were also important because of their cry for peace and justice.
This cry for peace must ultimately come from each individual and it must also start from within each individual. Fortunately, inner peace is something we already have within us. We don’t have to go looking for it anywhere outside ourselves. We just need to awaken this inner peace from within, through our prayers and meditations, and offer it to the world, along with our aspiration, joy and oneness.

Peace, peace, peace,
-Bhashwar Hart

Karabi is pictured here during the 2006 Peace Run in her homeland of Costa Rica.

"Sri Chinmoy’s Peace Run is God’s gift to humanity. I am so honored to have taken part in such a life changing event – to spread God’s peace and light throughout the world in such a symbolic yet concreate way. It is magical!"

Karabi Hart

Prema is featured here in a 1988 Essence magazine article entitled "Running for Peace".

"Visiting Africa had been a dream of mine for years, and visiting as an ambassador of peace and oneness was a dream come true. My African sisters and brothers were extremely kind, generous and enthusiastic. It was at once humbling and uplifting to run with them, to learn a bit about their cultures, and to share meals and stories. Running has blessed me with many gifts, such as better health and a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It has been a catalyst in my understanding of the importance of self transcendence on my road to inner peace. And running is what finally got me to Africa to share the pure spirit of oneness. I remain eternally grateful."

Prema Jackson

Lunthita is pictured here on the left during the 2020 Florida Peace Run.

"At a certain point in my life, around the age of 16, I had this yearning inside my heart that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, something meaningful, and make a contribution to the world. About 10 years later, in 1991, I was offered the possibility to be a volunteer Peace Run coordinator. It was a challenge, but I recognized immediately the potential to contribute in a very tangible way towards making this world a better place.

In nearly 30 years that I have been involved in the Peace Run, not only have I had the opportunity to connect with people all over the world, in over 30 countries, but I have come to realize that each human being also wants to better themselves and better the world. They may view things a little differently from me, and act on it their own way, but inside each person’s heart is the same longing.

The Peace Run has a unique way of bringing us all together in “oneness”, and when people hold the Peace Torch, it feels as if heaven has sprinkled some “magical dust” on the Torch, which really brings forward people’s hearts, their dreams for a better world, and even their capacities to do so!

I am not an artist, but I had the opportunity in 1993 to help with painting a Peace Run mural. It was sunny and hot, and we were doing our best to stay inspired. The project lead, the artist, said, 'You know, there is no amount of money in the world that can buy these experiences'!”

With Gratitude,
Lunthita M. Duthely

Sevak is pictured here on the right during the opening of a Community Garden which he organised in conjunction with the Peace Run visit in Austin, Chicago in 2018.

"I am so fortunate to participate each year in organizing the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run in Chicago. Because of Sri Chinmoy’s encouragement for all citizens of the world to be students of peace, I understand that I do not need to worry or be fearful of all that is happening in the world today.

It hurts me deeply to experience the world-situation that I see. There is so much anger. I feel sad that people do not realize we must reach deep within. People of all faiths must continually reach for love, peace and unity, and then express this to the world.

I am walking in a peace and love within my heart that I wish to share with others. Many others experience this peace and love for all our sisters and brothers of the world. We are not being affected by the current situation because we have something on the inside that is helping us to cope with what is on the outside. I would be happy to help others find that peace within.

Welcoming the Peace Run in Chicago is sorely missed this year since it affects so many people in many neighborhoods of our city. Thousands of kids, adolescents and adults pass the Peace Torch. It brings forward so much joy. The smiles are so heartwarming. The children are so proud! And now the world needs it more than ever.

My gratitude to Sri Chinmoy for the Peace Run and for my opportunity to continue to grow in peace is unbounded."

Sevak Edward James

Sharika is pictured here on the right with the President of Cabo Verde.

"As a native of Cabo Verde now living in the U.S. it was incredibly meaningful to help bring the Peace Run to Cabo Verde. It was a great honor to help arrange for the President and First Lady to meet with the Peace Run.

With heartfelt gratitude to the Peace Run and to the people, facilitators, thousands of school children, and participants for an extremely memorable occasion."

Sharika Maria Xavier

A message from the President of Cabo Verde is included below:

"I would like to pay tribute to the memory of Sri Chinmoy, a world peace leader, who, through his philosophy of PEACE, created this unstoppable global humanitarian movement Peace Run, and I would also like to greet all of those who, like us the Cabo Verdeans, affirm the primacy of PEACE as a fundamental vector for the progress of humanity".

HE Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca
President of Cabo Verde

Virangini is pictured here with a Park Ranger she met on the Peace Run in Alabama.

"As an African American, I have to say I was pretty intimidated by the idea of traveling with the Peace Run through the American South. But I did it, back in April 2018, adding to the diversity of the international team which models what harmony looks like.

We traveled from Atlanta to Oklahoma, a section of the country that I had misgivings about ever visiting, much less driving through by car. Too much history.

Everywhere we went people were very welcoming and excited to hear us talk about peace and harmony. You felt that we are one family and we all have the same wishes and dreams for a world of peace.

We go into the schools and day camps as pioneers to inspire peace in the hearts of children of all ages, hoping that if we touch these young hearts they can see everyone as brothers and sisters and be able to remember that we have a world of oneness. Maybe things will be better in the future.

I want to share one story about a African American girl we met in Chicago who had lost three family members that year to violence. She wanted us to know that she had been coming out for many many years to meet the Peace Run. In fact she remembers not being able to make it one time about 10 years ago and being totally devastated by the fact that she missed the runners. She told us that we did not have any idea how much our visit affected these kids. To see that there is a world beyond their streets and that someone cares is something that they will remember for the rest of their lives. She made it to college and planned to become a doctor.

On the strength of our oneness we have the capacity to create happiness and harmony in the world family. First we have to embody peace and then we have to reveal and offer peace to the world at large".

“Today’s hope grows into tomorrow’s reality.” Sri Chinmoy

Virangini Afzal

This is the brave young girl in Chicago that Virangini wrote about.

The Peace Runners with the South Shore Drill Team, Chicago 2018.

Jacqueline is pictured here on the right with her friend and great inspiration, Yolanda Holder (on the left) at the 3100 Mile Race.

"What the Peace Run means to me…

The Peace Run symbolizes the inner journey to bring forth a more harmonious world. It is the inner experience of peace that is manifested and reflected in the outer world, manifested in our relationships.

It was in 2007 in my work as an educator, that I began introducing online lessons using the Peace Run website as a supplemental instructional guide, offering public school students’ new ways of thinking. Students would be introduced to the Peace Run activities ahead of meeting in- person Peace Run representatives. Students conducted research, visiting peacerun.org, ahead of the visiting representatives. It was the culminating activity held at the end of the school year. Once the Peace Run representatives arrived without fail, invariably Vajra would be taken for Sri Chinmoy, and a program participant would confidently let it be known, that he looked like the spiritual teacher on the website. The team enthusiastically join the class with smiling faces!

In this new cosmic shift, we’re all experiencing as the global pandemic, the Peace Run for me is very much about sharing with young people the importance of a personal inner peace discovery. In the remote learning space, it is creating an opportunity to bring forth innovation that will potentially reach and touch the hearts of students in an online community. In this new remote learning environment whether it’s a school building, web-based, or a blended approach, for me it includes in some creative way, the Peace Run virtual experience. An experience for the urban learner to master respect for self and others, cultural diversity, and acceptance of our differences.

Creating innovation in this new space and contributing to reinforcing building positive relationships for school and life success, it is the work of bringing forth peace on earth. And the Peace Run website provides for urban students the opportunity to see children from around the world with happy faces!

In this transformation, the seed is planted and the gift of establishing the right human relationships in our life’s adventure becomes a rewarding experience with a single common denominator: the peaceful experience shared with others, that’s the Peace Run experience.
In my inner peace walk, there’s a heartfelt experience that may be familiar to the reader when I share my inner peace run experience with the 3100-mile race champion, Yolanda Holder. She’s an exemplar expression of manifesting what might an outer expression of an inner peace run look like in an unlikely urban setting.

During this unprecedented time, we can take the opportunity to rethink how we think about what peace looks like in outer expression. In the Japanese Seicho-No-Ie philosophy of truth, the expression of how peace looks like is captured in the song “peace begins with you and me.”
I’m looking forward to a new school year using remote learning innovation that leads to more public school age youth to experience the Peace Run website. For these students to see examples of youth around the world with smiling faces can serve as an inspiring and uplifting illustration giving them hope for a brighter future. It’s on us and fortunate are those of us who study the Sri Chinmoy teachings and meditation practices."

Jacqueline Dawson

Yolanda is pictured here in 2017 when she was the first African American and first walker to take part in the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race. She finished the race inside the 52 day cutoff. Yolanda has become a dear friend and supporter of the Peace Run.

“Peace and Love go hand in hand. World peace is the freedom to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else. One world, one love.”

Yolanda Holder

Good friends Yolanda and Harita together during the 2019 San Diego Peace Run.

Otis is pictured here during the 2018 Peace Run in Palau

Hope
"There is an image that I’ve chosen to never forget, that of people of all colors marching with singleminded intent. I’ve been astounded to see the change in people’s outlook, there’s been a shift of collective doubting mind. Hope.
From deep within came the resolve of the protesters around the world saying with their actions,
“Coronavirus? March!” Hope.
Sri Chinmoy’s Vision, mission and message of humanity’s unity seems a bit closer. Hope."

“Hope knows no fear. Hope dares to blossom even inside the abysmal abyss. Hope secretly feeds and strengthens promise.” -Sri Chinmoy

Otis Davis

Kashif is pictured here with the team after receiving the Torch-Bearer Award in 2016.

In the late Spring of 2016, I had the pleasure of introducing the Peace Runners to Kashif Saleem while they were in Los Angeles. Most people know Kashif as a renowned musician, who has written and produced works for Whitney Houston, Kenny G, George Benson and Evelyn “Champagne” King.
But I also know Kashif as a crusader for the rights of foster children, and a devout Buddhist. Kashif himself was a foster child who spent his youth moving from one home to another. Many of those experiences weren’t pleasant. So as a successful adult he was determined to do sometimes about it. And he did by establishing schools and raising awareness and money to protect these children.
My hope was to have Kashif and the Peace Runners jog together with some of the students Kashif was mentoring. Unfortunately it was too late in the school-year and the children weren’t available.
Instead we met at a park near Kashif’s home in Marina del Rey, where I watched the star R&B producer turn into a humble lover of God and server of man. The blend of personalities were also in Kashif’s attire: He came to jog in a very stylish outfit fit for an album cover, but on his feet were a pair of brand new running shoes, that I’m sure he bought for the occasion.
I made an introduction listing Kashif’s musical credits, but when I started talking about his work with foster kids, he added at the end, “This is what I’m really about. This is my life’s goal.”
He and the Peace Runners didn’t run far. Maybe only 50 yards back and forth. Kashif wasn’t in the best of shape. We were friends but I had no idea how bad his health was. He made his transition a few months later.
I was sorry I lost a friend, but so pleased that he met the Peace Runners, held the Torch and received some of Sri Chinmoy’s Light.

Eric Meza
(Eric is a TV, movie and music video producer in Los Angeles)

Coach Fritz is pictured here with his daughter, Natalia, during the 2020 Florida Peace Run. He was instrumental in organizing the incredibly inspiring Lake Mary, Orlando events.

"In a time when the world hurts so much from from the endless divisions we are faced with, today, more than ever, it's necessary for us to reflect on the importance of peace, the joy of unity and the endless possibilities of oneness.

Our world is a better place when we as human kind can come together to love one another, share in the joys of life, and live amongst those that do not reflect our image but yet understand that we are one.

I pray to see the day where we will conquer hate and live to love, laugh and support each other as one."

Fritz Voltaire

Gary is pictured here on the left during a 100 km and 100 mile race in 2019 in honor of the 100th Birth Centenary of his father, the legendary Ultra Distance runner, Ted Corbitt.

"My late father Ted Corbitt lived by the adage: “To Give Is to Receive.” What a truly peaceful way of uniting us as one. All races, creeds, nationalities, and abilities working together for the good of mankind. The running culture the sport enjoys today started with the New York Pioneer Club (all races and abilities welcomed). This historic club began in 1936 to promote higher education for Harlem youth and to advance racial understanding. The club made civil rights history in 1942 becoming an integrated team, and made running history in 1958 with the founding of Road Runners Club: New York Association now known as New York Road Runners.

I’ve produced an African American Running History Timeline documenting achievements by Blacks in middle and long distance running. Many people feel my father was the first great Black long distance running champion, but the history shows Black running achievements date back to 1880. The timeline can be found at www.tedcorbitt.com.

I thank the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team for the many ways and years you’ve honored my father’s legacy. You continue to show the world the beauty of running and becoming with the Peace Run."

Best Wishes!
Gary Corbitt
Curator: Ted Corbitt Archives

Ted Corbitt is pictured on the left with Sri Chinmoy in 1976 as part of the Liberty Torch Relay, which was a precursor to The Peace Run.

In the oneness-heart
There is abiding peace.
With our oneness-heart
We are all trying to create
A peaceful world-family.
-Sri Chinmoy

This video highlighting the Pan-African Community, including the US, the Caribbean and several countries on the African Continent, is part of an ongoing series recognising the contributions of diverse peace lovers around the world who have encouraged and supported the Peace Run since its inception.

On a recent trip to Florida earlier this year, young peace lovers express what Peace means to them

Inspirational story of Ingrid Nathan, the first African American to go to a white school in Seminole County