Nonprofit of the Week: Gandhi Brigade
Richard Jaeggi is founder and Executive Director and started Gandhi Brigade with volunteers almost eight years ago. Within in their first two years, Jaeggi says the entire team was comprised of volunteers.
Jaeggi sat down with MyMCMedia’s Community Engagement Specialist Tamika Smith to talk about his nonprofit and what drives his efforts in the community and with the youth on a daily basis.
Tamika Smith: What was the inspiration behind creating Gandhi Brigade?
Richard Jaeggi: It is hard to identify a single cause but here is one. I was born in New Jersey where I grew up until my father got transferred to Memphis Tennessee in 1966. Moving to Memphis was a huge culture shock. I had been raised to think that prejudice was wrong but in my all white community had no experience of cross race relations. In Memphis racism was overt and normal. I was there for the last two years of segregation and the first year of integration. This was also the year that Martin Luther King Jr was shot. I was at the cross roads of history and yet I was a clueless 14 year old. In retrospect I wish there were some adults who could have helped me understand injustice and shown me that I had the power to do some good in the world. This is Gandhi Brigade in a nutshell.
Smith: How many youth do you typically work within a year? Where do these students come from?
Jaeggi: At Gandhi Brigade we use the pebble in the pond with concentric ripples. The strongest ripple is the 20 young people who commit to a year of training as Gandhi Brigade Promoters. These youth learn about social justice, media production, and messaging by engaging in projects and campaigns. Another 30 youth are our affiliates who take some classes and participate in our events. The next circle is 80 middle school youth who receive media training from our teen peer instructors. The biggest circle is 200 youth who participate in our annual youth media festival.
Smith: What do you hear from students who come through your program? How did it affect them?
Jaeggi: While we have various recruitment drives, most young people come through friends and family. Each teen is so different but I would say the biggest affect is the experience of being part of a very inclusive group that is committed to working together for something bigger than all of them. Once you experience a strong sense of purpose nothing else looks the same.
Smith: You just celebrated six years with the Youth Media Festival. Talk a little bit about the inspiration behind creating this outlet for the youth.
Jaeggi: The reason we started the Youth Media Festival was because we were looking for more ways for young people to share their media creations with a broader audience. But as we invited youth from other communities to participate it gave our youth the opportunity to connect with peers from very different communities. This last festival we had submissions from New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Oakland.
Smith: Why do you think it’s important for organizations like yours to exist as an outlet for the youth?
Jaeggi: There are very few places for young people to learn how to affect change within the context of moral leadership. I think Gandhi would have approved of the Gandhi Brigade.
Smith: Any major projects coming up?
Jaeggi: Our big summer project is Social Justice Summer. Twelve teens will work as paid interns to create youth inspired events in downtown silver Spring and also create mixed media on the theme of teen homelessness.
Contact Gandhi Brigade