Home

Too Beautiful to Burn

  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to usernode_link() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/module.inc on line 203.

by Luke Nephew



We have stepped out into the streets of Kabul to protest war and to reject all forms of killing and violence, and are learning ways of resolving conflicts non-violently, through global friendship, listening, and reconciliatory justice.

We want to reach beyond false borders and boundaries and work together, building a strong 99%, to create a better world. We wish to live without wars.

-Dr. Hakim of The Afghan Peace Volunteers



At home in the Bronx, sirens don’t keep me awake. If anything, they get mixed down with salsa and hip hop then lull me to sleep. Outside on the block, there’s plenty of things to smack me with our reality. Being stopped and frisked or hit by a breeze full of homelessness and pollution is the regular. The usual. The war painted over as normal.

All we see are the bricks. Time dulls the colors of the murals in our minds that might remind us how insanely painful and beautiful it all is. How mind-blowingly miraculous we all are despite the chaos. We don’t really forget of course. The battles against racism, poverty, misogyny, mis-education, patriarchy, police, and the terror handed down so savagely by history make the war all too real. That’s actually the deal- It’s TOO real. So we turn the volume down on the war so we can hear a child sing or an old woman laugh or a young man tell a joke that has nothing to do with how everything in our view feels broke sometimes. I mean damn, if sirens kept me awake, I would’ve gone crazy a long time ago, right?

But tonight, I’m packing my bags and leaving for a whole different warzone. I’m going to Afghanistan. Nope, not in a military uniform. I’m a Peace Poet. I’m packing notebooks, pens and the humble desire to learn and build with a part of our family I haven’t met yet. One time when we were little, my brother ran away and all he took with him was socks. I might not have a bulletproof vest for this journey, but by comparison, I feel pretty well equipped. I eagerly accepted the invitation from Voices for Creative Non-Violence to go and work with a group in Kabul called The Afghan Peace Volunteers. It’s an honor to be collaborating with both of these brave communities by creating a Circle of Peace where the US has been waging war for the last 11 years, 11 months and 17 days.

So, why am I going? Why leave one warzone for another? I think its simple: Because I believe these wars are intimately connected. I have seen the terror of state violence in my neighborhood in the forms of mass incarceration and police brutality. I know that the people of Afghanistan have seen state violence explode and rip through their loved ones skin. But we don’t get to see each other. We don’t meet. We don’t hear each other’s voices or learn each other’s names. And so, we’re unable to be strengthened by each other’s courageous peaceful resistance or inspired by each other’s art and humanity.

I’m going to meet human beings who have loved and lost and fought against any force or system that treats any life as disposable. I’m going to learn from people who have suffered distinct and brutal forms of state violence stemming directly from the government of my country. I’m going to break bread with brothers and sisters who have lost limbs and loved ones to weapons paid for by my taxes. I’m going to share my story of joining the struggle for peace and use spoken word workshops to create a space where they can share their stories in a new way. I’m going to honor the connection that already exists and draw from it the fruits of solidarity that can be gained from the gift of human relationships. In short, the systems of violent oppression are all connected and so our resistance must cross all divisions and weave a tapestry that one day we can all come to recognize as far too beautiful to burn.

But what will I actually be doing? (alright, I can appreciate a practical question) My crew has been in and out of conflict areas from Liberia to Lebanon, Colombia to Palestine and we consider our work a cultural response to humanitarian crisis. My focus in working with the Afghan Peace Volunteers will be creating an artistic space that supports their work of building community and promoting messages of peace. First, we will gather together and design our circle as a group. This requires imagination. What’s it going to be like in our cypher, our creative space, our poetic home? How will we treat each other, listen to each other, support each other in this circle? We Decide! And the minor miracle is that if we are the ones who make up the circle and we agree on how it will be then it actually happens. We will build a circle of peace poetry where we can tell the stories that make us break and blossom, remember and reconstruct, imagine and build together.

Similar to the project that I recently did in Sudan, the young people come from different ethnic groups, so the first poems we’ll write will focus on celebrating diversity and embracing the common ground of our humanity. We’ll begin with poetic exercises and activities that articulate both shared and unique experiences- this way, we bond as a group while also creating a space where each person can individually shine. Remember: It’s our circle, so we can design it so that each person will be respected for who they are and so when they share that in their poetry, the community has the chance to acknowledge their power and preciousness. Once we’ve gotten comfortable with these, we can get excited about writing our dreams and desires for the world. Our Circle will feel like home and so it’s only natural to want to share that sacred space with others.

Spoken word is a great tool to promote messages of peace because it is intimate and personal. By speaking in our own voice about our own realities, we take power back from the mass media and amplify our own truth. Coming from the US, I am acutely aware of how skewed the image is of Afghans and people all over the Muslim world. For this reason specifically, we will work on translating pieces from Dari into English so that the US audience can meet these young people through their poetry. I personally can’t wait to become a member of this new circle, as a student and a teacher, as a brother and a friend.

My mother always says that the only thing that really matters in life is people. My instincts are telling me that these are people that I really have to get to know. And there is no better place to build bonds for peacemaking than in a circle where our truths are revealed, celebrated, and brought forth to the world. Of all the places to bring these messages, I’m really looking forward to amplifying them in the streets and classrooms and halls of our country. Upon return to the United States, I will be working with Voices for Creative Non-Violence to set up speaking engagements and performances to share the work of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, as well as my own poetry and music born of our time together in Kabul.

As I finish packing, I don’t hear any sirens. Just about twenty car horns. Then, for a few seconds, they fade away too. And the sound of the church bells boom and echo throughout the hood. I sigh and smile. In a few days, I know I’ll be hearing the sound of Muslim prayer calls echo throughout another hood. War makes us thirsty for worship. Life is too beautiful not to love anything. The more shades of suffering I come to know, the stronger I grasp the hands of friends. Dangerous as the path may be, our joined hands are enough to keep us walking in the right direction.



Luke R. Nephew
Co-Founder and Artist Educator
of thepeacepoets.com



Luke Nephew of The Peace Poets and Voices for Creative Non-Violence is traveling to Afghanistan to use Hip Hop and Spoken Word Poetry to create another Circle of Peace with an amazing group called The Afghan Peace Volunteers. Luke will be learning about the critical and courageous work of this community as well as offering his skills as poet journalist and artist educator. He hopes to create an artistic space for the community to keep promoting messages of peace and strengthen our collective non-violent resistance. From the Bronx to Haiti to Juarez to Palestine, The Peace Poets continue to build circles of peace poetry where we can struggle together for the justice and dignity we all deserves. These circles are our home. We are so humbled and so grateful for this opportunity to build yet another home with the people of Afghanistan.