Nonviolence center named for Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., opens: ‘Englewood can breathe’

The nonviolence center, located in the Center of Englewood community building, will provide holistic approaches to nonviolence and peace through meditation and yoga classes, counseling and basketball programming.

SHARE Nonviolence center named for Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., opens: ‘Englewood can breathe’
Cook County Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle cuts the ribbon on the new Shepherd’s Hope mobile food trailer during the ribbon cutting of the Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence at the Center of Englewood at 838 W Marquette in Englewood.

Cook County Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle cuts the ribbon on the new Shepherd’s Hope mobile food trailer during the opening of the Gandhi King Center for Nonviolence at the Center of Englewood at 838 W. Marquette.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Dozens of organizations and local leaders gathered on Wednesday in Englewood to celebrate and promote the legacy of two fierce advocates for nonviolence with the opening of a new community center.

Martin Luther King Jr. never got to meet one of his heroes and great influences, Mahatma Gandhi, who led the independence movement in India. But Gandhi’s influence was palpable throughout King’s speeches and activism in the U.S. civil rights movement. He once noted that Gandhi was a “guiding light” in his life.

Although the two never formally worked together, they now share the namesake of Englewood’s new Gandhi King Center for Nonviolence, in the Center of Englewood building at 838 W. Marquette Road.

The center will provide holistic approaches to combat violence in the area and promote peacefulness through meditation and yoga classes, mediation counselors, basketball programming and a 24/7 crisis hotline.

“Englewood can now breathe,” said Twin Green, CEO of the Link and Option Center, a mental health center that is a partner of the new center. “There have been so many opportunities, businesses and providers that have come to Englewood with the intent to do very, very well. Then the air will go out and deflate. But not the Gandhi King Center for Nonviolence. The resources that are gonna come to this community are not going to deflate. We’re going to give people of Englewood the opportunity to stabilize, to be able to receive the civil and economic rights that they deserve to have.”

The nonviolence center, which does not have its own building, has permission to use rooms like the auditorium, community room and gym, and holds an office in the Center of Englewood facility.

Shepherd’s Hope, a Christian nonprofit that also runs a food pantry out of the building, donated the building space and is one of 15 partners providing services to the nonviolence center.

This program has been two years in the making, said Vijay Prabhakar, who created the center and is the president of the American Multi Ethnic Coalition.

“We want this to be a place where the community gatekeepers — the youngsters — will find and come on a daily basis,” Prabhakar said. “There’ll be activity going on — right now we already have for the youth, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., they’ll have access to a basketball court and we have a full-time coach that gives free services and coaching.”

Meditation and yoga classes will begin this month. Music therapy and mental health services will follow, Prabhakar said.

Currently, the food pantry in the same building is open Tuesdays and Thursdays. It serves about 5,000 in the community.

The launch of the nonviolence center on Wednesday also marked the beginning of the group’s mobile food pantry, which will visit the homes of those who cannot go to the food pantry themselves and deliver goods. The 14-foot trailer allows the food pantry to be on the go throughout the streets of Englewood.

“We’re trying to bring some of the Ghanaian culture, like bringing transcendental meditation classes on a weekly basis here to start with,” he added.

Skill development for young adults and basic wellness screenings are also planned for the center, thanks to partners like Medstar Laboratory and Habilitative Systems.

“The basic thing is to promote peace and to promote nonviolence and to make them feel part of a healing process,” Prabhakar said.

Mariah Rush is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

The Latest
A bevy of low averages glares in the first weeks of the season.
Mya King, 12, was found unresponsive Sunday morning and died Wednesday. Her mother, Colette Bancroft, was charged with possession of a controlled substance.
The Cubs still made a series of roster moves, activating right-hander Jameson Taillon and Patrick Wisdom from the IL.
At a rally at police headquarters, community members called for greater transparency into the investigation, a halt to the use of tactical units and an end to pretextual traffic stops.