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Gandhi, King families speak on peace, social justice

The Coretta Scott King Center, in collaboration with the Dayton International Peace Museum, orchestrated a profound dialogue Sunday, Jan. 28.

The event featured the Rev. Joel King, an activist and cousin of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; author and activist Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; and Gregory Foster, a retired social worker and cousin of Coretta Scott King.

The event helped kick off the Peace Museum’s observance of “A Season for Nonviolence,” an annual 64-day initiative that runs from Jan. 30, the date of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, to April 4, the date of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. “A Season for Nonviolence” was originally established in 1998 by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, as a way to honor the legacies and philosophies of both Gandhi and King.

Tushar Gandhi also visited Mills Lawn Elementary School and McKinney Middle and Yellow Springs High schools the previous Friday, speaking to students about “A Season of Nonviolence” and the legacy of the Gandhi family.

The conversation at the Coretta Scott King Center provided a platform for attendees to discuss nonviolent social change. Tushar Gandhi emphasized the importance of individual action, highlighting the often overlooked contributions of women in social movements. Foster echoed the sentiment in his remarks, stressing the significance of love and communication within families to foster peace. Joel King addressed ongoing racism and bigotry, urging individuals to challenge societal norms.

The dialogue underscored the need for broadening definitions of peace and nonviolence to address contemporary issues, and served as a reminder of the enduring relevance of collective action in pursuit of social justice and harmony.

Tushar Gandhi told those gathered for the event that he feels strongly that individuals must recognize their importance in creating a peaceful community, as their actions have a cumulative effect.

“An individual’s responsibility is not to consider oneself to be insignificant, because many times we don’t do things because we consider that we are insignificant and that what we do doesn’t matter at all,” he said. “And so the first thing that a peace worker needs to do is to consider himself or herself to be important in the design of things, and if we do that, then I think we will achieve the results that we desire.”

He also highlighted the need to address overlooked issues, reminding the audience: “We talk about grace and we talk about caste and we talk about class discrimination. We sort of forget gender discrimination.” Gandhi said he found walking into the Scott Coretta Scott King Center fascinating because the center recognizes and celebrates a great person who was, many times, in the shadow of her husband, another great person.

“I have seen that with my great-grandmother, too,” he said. “She was, in a sense, the woman who lived in the shadows of her husband, who was so much more illustrious. People forgot to give her the credit that she deserves.”

In 2022, Gandhi published “The Lost Diary of Kastur, My Ba,” a 135-page diary written by his great-grandmother, Kasturba Gandhi, who was previously believed to be illiterate. Kasturba Gandhi was an activist in her own right, and her diary, written in 1933, includes mention of her own imprisonments due to peaceful civil disobedience.

Tushar Gandhi’s parents wrote a biography about his great-grandmother, but he said it was widely viewed as the biography of a great man’s wife — “Ms. Gandhi” — and not the story of an individual with her own contributions, the credit for which he believes is long overdue.

“All that was written was with the ghost of Mahatma [Gandhi] in the narrative, and my great-grandmother was just there because she was tagging along,” Tushar Gandhi said. “I’ve seen that in all societies; the patriarchal oppression is so that everyone is programmed to look in a way that the individual does not get the credit or importance that they deserve.”

Broadening understanding of peace and nonviolence, according to Tushar Gandhi, is the first stepping stone toward finally achieving greatness in life. In discussing ongoing struggles with hate and violence, Gandhi said he finds solace in individuals’ ability to refrain from contributing to such negativity.

“It’s very difficult to live amid so much hate and violence — but what should give us more peace, individually, is the fact that we are not adding to that. Your actions are not adding to that violence and carnage that is happening, and by not adding to it, you’re helping lessen it. I’m not saying we should be happy with it, but in the present conditions, at least we can tell ourselves that I’m not causing any more of this if I’m not able to lessen it.”

Panelist Joel King expressed his honor in participating on the panel and related the critical need for involvement in social issues. He highlighted the need for inclusive movements that carry everyone along, a principle exemplified by both Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. King also reminded the audience that racism and bigotry are still alive in America

“You should feel it as well as see it,” he said. “Even though you have the opportunity to go to different places, the segregation and the envy of you coming into that place is still there. I can walk into your store, and you just look at me wrong because I’m a Black person. I can park my car next to a white woman, and she will look at me funny because I’m a Black man. See, it’s an emphatic thing.”

Reflecting on his family’s legacy, King discussed the importance of collective action and the power of voting in local elections, but acknowledged that there is still work to be done.

”We think we have arrived and we have not arrived,” he said. “We have everyone thinking about ‘I have a dream,’ but that dream has become a nightmare in your own generation’s time. Because right now, all that we thought we had gotten has been rolled back.”

Panelist Gregory Foster shared poignant memories of his childhood experiences with segregation and the lessons of resilience and adaptability he learned from his parents. He recounted tales of his grandmother’s house in Alabama, where he absorbed discussions of the peace movement and King’s marches.

As Foster told the packed room: “Growing up, my grandmother would have company over. … I was one of those young people who absorbed everything. I listened and I learned and I heard them talk about the peace movement that they had marched in with Dr. King. … I had no idea at the time who I was related to.”

Foster emphasized the importance of respect and collaboration, values he and his wife, Karen, have instilled in their children and grandchildren. As a retired social worker, Foster said he is dedicated to teaching these principles to the younger generation, underscoring the significance of family in fostering social and community change.

“If you have children, love your children, show your children that you love them,” he said. “[The] young people who are doing those drive-by murders, stealing cars, that you hear about all the time, and all this other stuff across the country — if we’re not loving our children, that’s where it starts.”

Foster remembered Coretta Scott King emphasizing the importance of family history and activism at family reunions.

“We introduced each family and we got a chance to talk to each other,” he said. “[Coretta Scott King] wanted to know what was going on in our family, but also history was one of the biggest things in our family growing up. … I think that’s what was important to us. Dr. King was doing what he needed to do, and [Coretta] was an activist doing what she needed to do.”

The afternoon’s conversation concluded by extending into global conflicts, with Tushar Gandhi questioning the longevity of justifications for violence in places like Gaza.

“In Gaza, it was justified by saying that Hamas did the horrible attack on the music concert,” he said. “Now it’s 100-plus days since that happened — how long is that justification? How long is the world going to sit aside and say, ‘Oh yes, Hamas started it?’ So to the Palestinians listening to this, at least we can stand up and say we’re not OK with it, and I think the time has gone way past us remaining silent.”

For more information on “A Season for Nonviolence,” and the Peace Museum’s future programming for the initiative, go to

SOURCE: Yellow Springs News