The dream continues as our nation prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and Dr. Martin Luther King’s subsequent 54-mile march to freedom from Selma to Montgomery. The academy award nominated film Selma, currently in theaters, tells the inspirational story of the Peacemakers and Freedom Fighters who raised the conscience of a nation and shifted the momentum of the civil rights movement in the segregated south.
The March continues, but this time for a new cause: Teen Peace. Kit Cummings, founder and president of the Power of Peace Project (POPP) is marching the same 54-mile stretch of Highway 80 in rural Alabama from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery. Accompanying him are his Army veteran son, and a group of young black, white and Latino college interns. They march to create awareness and raise support for teenage addiction, overdose, incarceration, and suicide.
Cummings explains, “The national public is largely unaware of this epidemic. It’s like a dirty little secret. Families that have a kid that overdoses, or gets locked up, or tragically commits suicide, or goes into rehab… they don’t talk about it, because there’s a lot of shame and stigma around these issues. If your child gets sick, the church lines up to bring casseroles. If your teen goes to rehab, the phone stops ringing.” These families struggle to find help as there isn’t typically a ministry at church that is equipped to deal with the family of a 17 year old girl that dies of a heroin overdose. The churches want to help, but sometimes just don’t know how. The Power of Peace Project offers hope by getting involved in the conversation with these kids and addressing the root cause of the stress, pressure and conflict that teens are dealing with today.
Kit will be documenting the journey with a short film created by his young POPP team. When they arrive at the steps of the state capital in Montgomery after the three day march they will be met by young, enthusiastic Hope Worldwide volunteers, a charity that focuses on bringing hope to a hurting world.
After years of ministry experience in planting, leading, and building large churches, Kit came back to his passion of teaching, coaching, and training those who suffer with drug and alcohol addiction, and incarceration, and helping them on the road to recovery. Kit personally lost his father to the disease of addiction in 1988, which drove him to reach out to others who face the same struggles. The Power of Peace Project began four years ago on Dr. King’s birthday in the most violent, gang controlled maximum security prison in Georgia. Miracles began to happen when Cummings experimentally introduced his Power of Peace Project where 12 prisoners agreed to live by seven non-violent principals for 40 days in a row and together began a journey to find peace. They journaled, wrote papers and met in small groups, the word spread, and violence dramatically declined. Now, prisons and schools all across the country and some overseas have taken part in the Power of Peace Project, and literally thousands of inmates and troubled teens have found peace.
Schools have embraced the project as teens struggle with technology that provides instant access to social media, movies, games and music that glorify drugs, violence, sex and crime. The result is kids skipping or dropping out of school, medicating their feelings, checking out, and sometimes even taking their own lives– as peace is largely unknown to this millennial generation.
80-90% of crime has drugs or alcohol related in some way. Heroin use among teens is up 300% in North Atlanta in the last 3 years. 50% of the nation’s incarcerated are 25 years old and younger. Our nation is building more prisons than schools.
Teens have the stress of dealing with all these messages and the bullying behavior it generates like no other time in history. In past generations, you had to go to the playground to run into the bully. Nowadays, a girl with a smartphone can ruin another’s reputation with a simple tweet.
The Power of Peace Project inspires these troubled kids with messages of hope from icons like Dr. King, Gandhi, Mandela, and Mother Teresa who were all freedom fighters and peacemakers, but whose message is largely unknown to this generation.
Teens are given wristbands and t-shirts with the slogan, “Hope is the New Dope” and are challenged to the same 40 Days of Peace intensive program as in the prison system. Inmates are finding peace and becoming positive examples for good and teens are embracing the peace movement as their own. Kit says, “It is a peace movement for them, and by them, and they are owning it… that’s why it’s working.” An idea whose time has come.
The whole world needs peace and the Power of Peace Project is delivering it in schools and prisons all across the country. The March Continues…
To find out more about Kit Cummings and the Power of Peace Project, visit: https://www.powerofpeaceproject.com and to help raise awareness for this movement visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/power-of-peace-march-a-thon-for-teens-in-crisis where you can support them with a tax deductible donation.