Liz Gannon-Graydon – Acting like Gandhi, Dressing like Cher

I got started in peace work as a child. My parents raised me during the Civil Rights Movement as a student of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. My father taught me the importance of peaceful, non-violent action as a force for change. Specifically, my organization, What BETTER Looks Like, was inspired by my work as a middle school teacher. During the course of a Social Studies class, I told them that they were the future and it was up to them to make the world a better place.  A student asked me, “What would better look like?” The question became a guiding force in my life. My husband and I co-founded What BETTER Looks Like to foster the development of Beloved Community, on the principles of Kingian nonviolence.


What interests you most about what you’re doing now?

What interests me most is engaging in the conversation with people. Part of what we do in our work is to ask people to think deeply about what better would look like in their own lives.  Hearing people’s ideas of “better” is powerful work.


What’s been your biggest accomplishment? Biggest challenge?

Our biggest accomplishment has been the launching of projects in Rwanda and Congo. We are sending three students to university in Rwanda and we are expanding the project to include education and job training for survivors of the genocide.  We have also launched an awareness campaign around the horrific violence threatening the women of Congo.

Our biggest challenge so far has been to try to create a breakthrough in awareness of the violence in Congo. The issue is complex and we are hoping to act in ways that will be effective.


Who or what inspires you?

What inspires me every day is the deep connections I have made by connecting in love with people I meet. Deep, purposeful, conscious conversation always leaves me wiser and inspired.


Why is peace sexy to you? What does”Peace is Sexy” evoke for you?

“Peace is Sexy” appeals to me because I love the juxtaposition if ideas that people do not normally put together.  It forces people to shift their perception.

I grew up with two idols: Gandhi and Cher. I wanted to change the world like Gandhi, but I wanted to do it dressed like Cher. I love that I can honor both sides of my spirit. When you are involved in peace work, people often have an ideal of what they think that means. “Peace is Sexy” honors both aspects. I especially respond to the part of your definition of peace as provocative, alluring and desirable, because I find peace to be all of those things.


What is a simple thing you do to create peace? What is something you do everyday?

One simple thing I do everyday to make peace is to create community in every relationship where I can-even simple things like asking the name of people you meet in day-to-day encounters. Taking time to connect with each person I meet, even briefly, creates peace in me and, I hope, in others.


How would you like Peace is Sexy to make a difference in what you are up to?

My work is to foster Beloved Community, continuing the work of King. He had an understanding of social and economic realities that needed to shift. I love the “big tent of peace” approach you take towards creating peace.


Where would you like to see your passion go in the next 10 years? 20 years? 100 years?

In ten years, I hope to be teaching the tools to create Beloved Community and see projects grow around the globe, especially in regards to reducing the levels of violence against women worldwide. In twenty years I hope that we will have shifted to peacebuilding as our primary tool for solving problems in our communities, whether we define our community as family, town, country or world. 100 years from now, I hope that children will only encounter hunger, violence and war in history books.


Is there anything else you want to tell us?

I want to thank you for the work that you are doing to shift awareness to the alluring possibilities for peace.

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