Interview

Creating Peace in Our Community

District Profile: Rainbow Beach District

Rainbow Beach District. Photos by Bob Nardi and Susan Forner.


SGI-USA’s Rainbow Beach District is located in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of South Shore. The members of this district are fighting for kosen-rufu with a burning passion to make their community a bastion of peace and respect for life.

The district, named after historic Rainbow Beach, holds several gatherings each week to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, study, discuss and introduce friends to Buddhism. With ironclad unity and a great sense of mission, Rainbow Beach District became a Champion District in 2015 and is striving to achieve this again in 2016. Based on the vow of mentor and disciple, Rainbow Beach District continues their advance to create an ideal realm of peace in Chicago!

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Q: What is your district’s mission
in the community?

 

Calvin Ford
District Men’s Leader

chicagorainbowdistrict-calvinfordA: Through my 44 years of Buddhist practice, my greatest benefit has been to build unshakable confidence in myself. Through leadership opportunities, I forced myself to break out of my shell and encourage others. In the process of encouraging other people, I started to transform myself.

The district is so important, because it’s a place where people gather in the community to gain courage and offer courage to others.

My neighborhood has a lot of history. In fact, Michelle Obama grew up three blocks from my home. I’ve been here my whole life and love it here. Violence, however, has become a serious issue. Many young people are getting killed. One night a few months ago, I heard gunshots outside my home; one of the bullets was lodged in my license plate.

My goal is to make the district a place to impart courage. To combat violence, each of us must have courage. We can’t be scared of the youth or our neighbors. Fear makes us a victim to the violence; it paralyzes people from going out and talking to others. Most people aren’t violent at all, but few have the courage to go outside, greet others and spread friendship in the community.

A sincere “hello” and eye contact will break down the barriers between people. If I see someone and don’t say anything to them, I’m disrespecting their life by being indifferent to them.

By challenging myself to talk to my neighbors more, I’ve been able to introduce one of them to the SGI and another wants to attend a meeting! Encouraging people gives me the greatest joy in life and the hope that peace is definitely possible!


Three Keys to Our Victory

1. Developing stronger bonds with our neighbors and sharing Buddhism with them.
2. Creating an atmosphere at the meetings where everyone can open up.
3. Each district leader striving to advance our human revolution as disciples of SGI President Ikeda.

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Justin Hinton
District Young Men’s Leader

chicagorainbowdistrict-justinhintonA: For a long time, I wanted to become a revolutionary and take bold action in my life. But I was lost, with no goals. In 2012, my friend noticed I was seeking and invited me to an SGI meeting. Although I was a Christian, everything that was said perfectly accorded with my view of life, so I decided to receive the Gohonzon. I thought at the time, This is the most revolutionary move I’ve ever made!

I feel that our district is so important for the community. It’s a true family. We have genuine and open discussions. I chant to ensure that each person leaves the meetings feeling refreshed and that the time they spend in our district is memorable. I also chant for the young men in the district. While I sometimes struggle to reach out to others, whenever I attend meetings, I gain courage to take action.

We want to widely spread the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism in our community and develop a land of capable bodhisattvas. Toward this, we have been encouraging the district members to interact more with people in the community, even if only through a simple greeting.

I recently heard an experience from a member who said “Hello!” to a young man in her neighborhood. He was so moved, he started crying. This showed me that people are hungry for human contact based on respect and compassion. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who showed all the people he met deep respect no matter how they treated him, is an inspiring example for me.

My goal now is to become a counselor who helps people become successful based on their own efforts and the unlimited power they already possess. Through these efforts, I want to make my community a citadel of peace and capable people.

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Veronica Hubbard
District Young Women’s Leader

chicagorainbowdistrict-veronicahubbardA: Because I witnessed a lot of violence and gang activity, I had been seeking a strong philosophy to transform my circumstances. I had always wanted to learn about Buddhism, but never thought it would be available where I live. Then my neighbor started sliding Buddhist materials under my door. Reading the SGI-USA publications, I learned that ordinary people can practice Buddhism, not just monks or people meditating in the forest. This much-needed encouragement led me to begin practicing Buddhism in 2010.

I love reading SGI President Ikeda’s guidance and watching his videos at meetings. He gives his all to encourage each person in front of him, often saying, “Do your best!” It’s short and simple but means so much to me. I always listen as if he is directly speaking to me. As long as I do my best, I know I won’t have regrets. Before joining the SGI, I hadn’t heard this kind of encouragement.

Because Budhism is the study of life and it gives people the tools to change their karma, our district’s mission is to spread this practice. A lot of the violence and anger in the community stems from poverty and many people feeling stuck in their situations. This is why I hope to empower as many people as possible to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Each person needs to stand up and change their karma, and the SGI is propagating the practice to help all people achieve this.

As the district young women’s leader, I’m empowered to support people and be a source of encouragement. Many times, people struggle to believe they will succeed. In these moments, I challenge myself to have faith in them and bring out the good in them. I’m determined to keep planting and nurturing the seeds of victory for each member in my district and in my community.

 

Alice Quaye
District Women’s Leader

chicagorainbowdistrict-alicequayeA: I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism in 1974, when I was depressed and experiencing a low point, but I was hesitant to attend a meeting. Several months later, I was approached on the train with a World Tribune and was told again about Buddhism. I attended a meeting that night and immediately felt at home. And for the first time, my questions about life and death were answered!

In the district, we have a very important mission to combat violence by creating peace through spreading the Buddhist philosophy of the dignity of life throughout the community. I believe the significance of the SGI district can be summed up in the opening sentence of The Human Revolution, where SGI President Ikeda writes, “Nothing is more barbarous than war” (p. 3). In August, the SGI women’s division members in Chicago were challenged to each tell 50 people about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in one month—a challenge directly linked to establishing peace in our city. I spoke with many friends about Buddhism and went into the neighborhood with other women from Rainbow Beach District to have dialogues about Buddhism with people.

Given the violence and mistrust in the world, I have no choice but to take as much action as possible to spread President Ikea’s philosophy of peace. To do this in our community, we are introducing as many people to the SGI as we can by hosting exhibits in the community, such as Victory Over Violence, and inviting influential people in the community to our discussion meetings. Sharing Buddhism is the only way to fundamentally transform the karma of an individual or place.

My vision is for every person living on my block to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and become a protagonist for peace! Every day, when I walk by people, I smile and give them a warm greeting with the spirit to connect them to Buddhism.

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