I had the privilege of attending two extraordinarily powerful programs at Brookdale Community College under the auspices of the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education.
The first was an interactive video-conference with Ernest J. Gaines, author of A Lesson Before Dying. This was the last in a series of programs presented over a six-month period as part of The Big Read, for which Chhange received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and support from numerous community sponsors. Students of all ages—high school, middle school, college, participants in local book clubs, users of the Monmouth County library system and inmates at our local correctional institution—all of us reading the same book and then discussing with our peers the issues of social justice it reflects.The second was the opportunity to meet and hear from Chris Bohjalian, author of best-selling novel The Sand Castle Girls. His presence as part of Brookdale Community College's Visiting Writer Series was co-sponsored by Chhange, in memory of the 1915-1923 Armenian genocide, a genocide of which most people know very little.
Both programs uplifted my spirits during a week when so much of our attention was focused on Boston and bombs and the evil that human beings can do. I was reminded how grateful I am to live in a community committed to learning the lessons of the past in order to improve the future. That is the mission of Chhange: to educate, inspire and empower people, young and old alike, to act in ways that will eliminate bullying, prejudice and hatred from our midst.Next time you wonder what you can do to combat violence in the world I hope you will think locally and join Chhange, which offers each of us an opportunity to stand up and be counted and do something that makes a real difference. Our community needs Chhange, and Chhange needs you!