North Lawndale Youth Emerge as Neighborhood’s New Leaders

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By Diana Adeniyi Armani Baker, Education & Youth Reporters, The Real Chi


Daejahnae Oliver, a North Lawndale College Prep alumna and Peace Warrior, is  spending her summer participating in a program that teaches a unique system of principles aiming to decrease violence in North Lawndale. Summer’s in Chicago mark an increase in violence and the NLCP Peace Warriors’ summer program hopes to mitigate the trauma of these acts of violence.

Peace Warriors

Peace Warriors

The six week program offers an introduction to the Kingian Nonviolence approach and kicked-off with an audience of preteens and teenagers between ages 9 and 14. The program teaches the six principles of Kingian Nonviolence, a philosophy of nonviolent conflict resolution based on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that was also used in the Civil Rights Movement. Peace Warriors spend 40 hours getting training on these principles to be formally certified.  

“I became a Peace Warrior not only because of him but because I knew I needed help.”

Oliver, who is currently a sophomore at Fisk University, has been a Peace Warrior since 2015 after an experience that triggered her own violent behavior.

“When I was in high school, I lost a friend to gun violence and it made me become very violent,” she said.

Oliver proceeded to reach out to Gerald Smith, the Dean of Students at NLCP and the advisor for the Peace Warriors.

“He was like an outlet that could help you become a Peace Warrior,” she said. “I became a Peace Warrior not only because of him but because I knew I needed help.”

Smith has been involved with the Peace Warriors since 2013 and dedicates time during his summer to work with the students on the Introduction To Kingian Nonviolence Training program. He firmly believes that the Peace Warriors have had an impact on the North Lawndale community and will decrease violence all over the world in due time.

“People get really frustrated or hurt by something, and they don’t feel like they can verbalize or have the language to communicate what they’re thinking or what they are feeling’’ said Smith.

Peace warriors demonstrating levels of conflict and responses

Peace warriors demonstrating levels of conflict and responses

“We have these real diamonds that are emerging.”

The Peace Warriors make it their duty to understand the participants on a more personal level without any judgment. They set “Group Agreements” at the beginning of the program to encourage others to be mindful of their interactions with each other. One of these is the “Don’t Yuck My Yum” rule which urges participants not to judge each other’s circumstances or feelings.

Although many have been receptive of the group’s efforts, Oliver notes that there are still some students who aren’t. “Well in a way, people will say that Peace Warriors are snitches,” she said. “Some people will amen us while some people will call us snitches or say we’re crazy cause we’re risking our lives trying to break up a fight.”

According to Smith, most fights break out due to students attending school after losing a loved one, and letting their anger out on other students. “Once we began to realize that this was a trigger, our peace warriors became really savvy then they created condolence bags with candy and sent out the bags during class,” he said.

“The Peace Warriors have kind eyes, deep souls, and intelligent minds.”

This gesture helped decrease the fights, and as a result, there were only 14 fights this past school year.  This strategy helped increase the number of Peace Warriors because it made others want to be able to give that same compassion to students.

“We have these real diamonds that are emerging. When you look at our students it’s like, wow they should be bitter, angry and really furious, but they figure out a different way to fight,” he said. “The Peace Warriors have kind eyes, deep souls, and intelligent minds.”

The Peace Warriors are always looking to help others across the city of Chicago and are hoping to increase the reach of their impact.