Avila’s Peace Initiative Addresses Stigma, History, and Future of Troost Avenue

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Jean Buchanan donated $1 million to Avila University for the purpose of peace and nonviolence in September. The conference in February addressing racial divide in Kansas City is its first public event.

Bonnie Mentel

The Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence and its partners will be hosting a conference at Avila University, 11901 Wornall Rd., on February 8 and 9 to discuss the history of Troost Avenue, including topics such as segregation and equality, while also focusing on the future of the area through the creation of a community action plan.

“The Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence is an initiative that was just created last year as a result of a generous $1 million donation from Jean Buchanan, an Avila alumnae, for the purpose of peace and nonviolence,” said Noor Higley, The Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence Coordinator.

Jean and Bill Buchanan’s gift will fund an annual peace summit.

“We have two primary activities taking place this year, which is The Peace and Justice Summit in the fall from October 2-5, and we’re also hosting an Activist-in-Residence (Jeanette Londadjim) from August 15-October 6. It’s great to talk about national and international issues at the Peace and Justice Summit, but let’s start off by talking about peace and justice issues here in Kansas City, at the local level,” she said.

Long-time Kansas Citians are familiar with the concept of Troost Avenue being a racial dividing line in Kansas City.

“Some students who are primarily from Kansas City don’t really have the history and the background of the divide that Troost has historically been. We thought that we should shed light on that issue,” she said.

Higley said that there has been great work happening along Troost. She mentioned the 18th & Vine Jazz district, as well as Walt Disney’s original studio as being part of the rich history of Troost. She also said that there is more diversity these days east of Troost.

Along with diversity, the area is seeing more development.

“The primary focus of our keynote address will be that development is great, but we want to do it without displacement, with respect to the community, by listening to the community and being in relationships, as well. We’re trying to emphasize relationships and community building.” Higley said.

On February 8 at 9 a.m., the conference will open with a dramatic reading of, “Bingo on the Boulevard.”

“It’s a one-act play written by Donna Ziegenhorn. She’ll be available for Q&A after the reading. It’s a play based off of people who have lived and worked along Troost and one of them is based off of Father Alexii Altschul’s story. He will be the keynote for the next day, but he inspired one of the stories that she covered,” said Higley.

Father Alexii Alschuls, who lived and worked on Troost for 30 years, will provide an overview of the history of Troost, discuss the current state of divisions on Troost, and deliver his vision for the future.

The third and fourth sessions of the conference will allow for a high level of participation. These sessions will have 10 facilitators, with time for participants to break out into groups to discuss successful strategies. Discussions will include how to take action and how to identify which form of action is right for each person.

To register for the free conference, visit http://peace.avila.edu/. Lunch will be provided, so registration is important. For further questions, contact Noor Higley at 816-501-3627 or email her at oor.higley@avila.edu.

“We see ourselves as a larger peace movement. It’s not just a one-time deal. It’s connected to the Buchanan Initiative and what we’re trying to do with the Peace and Justice Summit is to connect people in social justice causes to the training and non-violence tools that people need to make social change possible. Our primary aim is to raise a generation who has those tools,” Higley said.

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