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Peace is a Verb
By Yuvitza Rivera
Peace has become a word empty of action. We say it, and we believe in it, but we don't know how or even try to make it happen.
In a city where violence is a regular occurrence to which many have become numb, my school has ventured to challenge the normalized indifference of its community.
Last November and December, Life Academy was a victim of violence. Once again, the streets of Oakland claimed the lives of a former student and a current student's 5-year-old brother. The community was devastated; students and teachers got to work creating colorful altars for their lost loved ones. Students crowded around the altars during passing periods, and their tear-stained faces showed their grief.
The ones left behind after acts of violence -- the true victims -- are often voiceless, scared and hopeless. But not at my school.
In response to the violence that had affected our community, a group of students and teachers decided to react. We commenced a "Season of Peace-Building." Our movement is unique because it does not seek to stop all violence, but rather aims to build peace over the course of 74 days. Our movement is built on two components: sacrifice and commitment. We show our sacrifice by fasting, and we show our commitment by signing a "Peace Pledge" and reflecting.
Wanting to be a part of this movement, I took the opportunity to revise and publicize the reflections of the fasters. This movement has really given me a whole new perspective on what change can look like. Change is not about just wanting something to happen, it is about action; taking small steps to create a big change.
Through these reflections, I have learned how deeply my peers long for peace. This new awareness has led me to commit time and hard work into coming every day to school to read and revise reflections. I have sacrificed time and sleep with the belief that with every reflection I post, someone out there is reading it and becoming motivated to take action for peace and change.
When you refuse to be a victim and you make conscious steps toward trying to change the violence that is affecting you, then peace becomes a verb.
With a perspective, I am Yuvitza Rivera.