Celebrating Gandhi's Birthday : MLK Library Lights Up to Honor the Great One

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Sun, 10/04/2009 - 14:57.


I was thoroughly engaged and inspired at Saturday's event at the MLK Branch of the Cleveland Public Library.  Over 100 people came to honor the memory of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), perhaps the most notable civil rights activist and action hero in all of our history.   Gandhi's premise and principle of advocating ahimsa, or nonviolence in tandem with a philosophy of love and service has inspired leaders old and new - from self-professed disciple Martin Luther King Jr to leading local leaders today, most notably Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and Congressman Dennis Kucinich.  Both were in attendance for this special four-hour celebration of a great man and both spoke of the inimitable qualities that so inspired their own work as community leaders and public servants.

Our session opened with some important opening remarks made by moderator Dr. R. Ray Gehani.  Gehani carries dual doctorates in Polymer Science and Engineering (Tokyo University) and Business (City University of New York) and currently serves as Director of the graduate programs in management of technology and innovation at the University of Akron.  Other lead planners of this remarkable collaboratively co-created event included Sean Spears (Planning), Lilia Fuquen (Collaborations), Whitney Milligan (Graphic Design), Pete Nischt (Editorial), Scott Garnick (Audio-Visual), and Ashok Varma Manthena (Information Tech).  Kudos to all of them for a top-notch production.  Also instrumental to this session were the India Cultural Gardens, Federation of Indian Community Organizations, National Association of Asian American Professionals and the University of Akron Gandhi Leadership Scholars.

In honor of the way Gandhi did things, this session included many pieces of art in its design.  The first art-form showcased was music - several talented singers, including Asim Datta, Mala Garg, and Harsha Desai graced the proceedings with classic bhajans (songs of devotion).  These were translated into English for the benefit of attendees.  Next followed a meditation session conducted by Matthew and Gennie Lerner.   

Keynote speaker Dennis Kucinich followed with his presentation 'How Gandhi Inspired Me from Time to Time' - which touched upon the ways Gandhi's principles and approach to life were reflected in his own servant-leadership, peace-building style - which includes an ongoing vision and hope for a Department of Peace to be established on the federal level.  He also noted his own vegan diet and its importance in his life.   Marcia Fudge followed with some of her own reflections and echoed these same, essential sentiments that compassion and selfless service are paramount to great leadership.

Following the keynotes attendees were shown an audio-visual overview (a second art form) which integrated key video clips from the academy-award winning film Gandhi, as well as core slides and graphics.  It captured the essential messages and potent power of this humble hero.  An illustrious panel, comprised of Rev. Otis Moss, Jr (retired Pastor), Marcia Fudge (current Congresswoman), Gred Coleridge (American Friends Society), Indra Shah (Poet, Lawyer, Professor), Sudarhsan Sathe (CEO, New Concepts, Inc.),  and Maurice Small (local foods champion).   All effectively conveyed Gandhi's relevance to modern times and their own lives and spheres of influence in poignant and touching ways.

Audience members were involved and engaged in interesting ways throughout the afternoon, which added spice and flavor to the proceedings.  Meditation, singing, and engaging experiments (like connecting to five strangers with compassion, for example) were all employed here.  Questions from the audience were encouraged and expertly-fielded by the prolific panel.   The event wrapped up with delightful treats from a variety of local Indian eateries - including Saffron Patch, India Cafe, Taj India Palace, and Cuisine of India.  Guests were encouraged to socialize and mingle to conclude an eminently enjoyable afternoon.

A final ask was made to all the audience - that we all strive to commit to personal transformation and service to one another and our community.  I couldn't resonate with this sentiment more.  It was the perfect time for me to re-assert such objectives - and to activate two unique theoretical frameworks I've designed for co-creative collaboration and mapping meaningful social change, respectively, by encouraging and facilitating their use and uptake in our community.  It's validating to see this starting to happen - groups from our ongoing Sustainable Cleveland 2019 conference will hear ways to best do this, beginning next week.  All stakeholders of our community and region are invited to partake and participate - contact me at skraghupathy [at] gmail [dot] com to join us in this transformative effort ! 


I think Gandhi and Dr. King may have been friends

In atlanta, the home of MLK, we are afforded the benefit of having many outlets and institutions that provide free education relating to the civil rights movement--Dr. King.  About 5 years ago I visited an exhibition of the writings of Dr. King which were being presented at the Atlanta History Center. 

It was phenomenal.  Words cannot describe.  Though in relation to Gandhi, I learned that he and Dr. King had corresponded and that Dr. King was very much a student of his teachings.  In fact I think it's fair to say that second only to his father, Gandhi was probably the most influential man in his life.

In my lifetime I would have to say that Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela have been the "Great Souls" of the last 50 years.  Although Mother Theresa, Princess Diana and Corretta Scott King and Michael Jackson made tremendous contributions for the betterment of humanity, in every way possible.