Local educator returns from Middle East, calls for peace

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Photo courtesy of Gilo Kwesi Logan

Gilo Kwesi Logan, professor at Northeastern Illinois University, holds a tear gas canister that the Israeli military shot during a protest in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Logan was part of a civilian delegation sent to the Middle East to observe life in a conflict zone.

Sammy Caiola, Reporter

In the aftermath of last week’s outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Evanston resident Gilo Kwesi Logan aims to spread a message of peace.

Logan, a professor at Northeastern Illinois University and a fifth-generation Evanston resident, recently returned from a two-week journey in the conflict zone and now aims to share his experience with the local community.

Logan was one of 15 people picked by Interfaith Peace-Builders to embark with an African Heritage Delegation to the Middle East. IFPB is a national nonprofit that sends civilian delegations to Israel and the West Bank so they can experience the conflict firsthand and share their work with their home communities, said IFPB spokesman Jacob Pace.

From Oct. 22 to Nov. 5, Logan’s delegation, which consisted exclusively of people of African descent, traveled the region and met with human rights organizations and grassroots groups such as the Israeli Black Panthers and New Profile, a nonprofit dedicated to demilitarizing Israel. The delegation attended lectures and workshops with community leaders on both sides of the conflict and also experienced home stays with Palestinian families, Logan said.

“As a group, there was a level of sensitivity to some of the issues and the concerns revolving around the conflict that I think were particular to our experience as members of the African Diaspora,” he said. “Through our experiences fighting racism, exploitation and other forms of oppression, we were very sensitive to these things, but we were also united. We developed a unity in our support for civil and human rights.”

In America, Logan teaches in the justice department at Northeastern Illinois University. He is also the director of SOUL Creations, an Evanston educational nonprofit serving multicultural students.

After the trip, Logan said he became much more affected by the violence in the Middle East and more motivated to share his knowledge about the conflict.

“We met individuals and we ate food with people and we slept in their beds and we stayed in their homes and we shared thoughts and feelings as human beings. … I see it differently now. I have a better lens through which I can interpret and analyze the propaganda as being perpetuated through the media. It did not paint an accurate picture of what’s happening over there.”

One mission of Interfaith Peace-Builders is to help delegates communicate their experiences with their local community, Pace said.

“The African American community has been at the forefront of pushing that narrative and that comparison,” he said. “Where we see that we can plug in and we can help is these opportunities to educate and to activate individuals. Everyone plays their part, and every piece is a building block to build a more educated movement.”

Logan plans to write a book about his experience, and he is in the process of identifying community organizations with which he can partner. Two of his children who attend Evanston public schools, and he hopes to give lectures at Evanston Township High School. He said informing the community’s youth about the conflict is “vitally important.”

“I think it’s important that our young people begin to get a grasp, an idea at least, an inclination even of what people are experiencing in the world,” Logan said. That situation over there is going to color and shape and mold their experience as Americans in the future.”

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd), a personal friend of Logan, said he hopes these initiatives will “create awareness on a national scale so our kids can really begin to think globally.”

“He is very passionate and involved in the Evanston community,” Braithwaite said. “He’s an advocate for those in the community that don’t have a voice. He’s committed to Evanston, and I think he has a very special way of relating to young people. … He’s a very effective communicator.”