Peace on the Street
History and Mission
Peace on the Street opened on East 107th St. in the fall of 2003. The inspiration for our program started five years earlier when I met Sifu Garcia while working for ACS, the Administration for Children's Services, here in New York. I began a five-year stint of teaching meditation and psychic self-defense at Rikers Island, New York's principal jail. Sifu, already a Black Belt, continued his martial arts training and began competing nationally and internationally.
After a couple of years at Rikers it became apparent that the men I worked with were open to meditation. At the same time, they were not likely to go to a New Age Center in Soho or a Korean Temple on Northern Boulevard when they were released. I decided to open a zendo in the inner city, which dovetailed with Sifu's desire to open a dojo. We looked in the Bronx and ended up in East Harlem.
It became apparent that the interest in meditation was limited in our community, at least amongst the general population. Setting aside the ethnic Buddhist communities, the practice of meditation in America was, for the most part, restricted to the middle and upper-middle classes. The communication technology that was the foundation of our psychic self-defense program was also similarly restricted. Very few people in our neighborhood were traveling to India to gain enlightenment or attending Esalen seminars.
However, we found out something that underlies our success in teaching the dharma in our community. While there was little interest in meditation, there was a great deal of interest in fighting, particularly amongst the youth. After a few months of training, Sifu would say to a student, "You got really nice with your hands. Now get nice with your mind and talk to Roshi. That's how you're going to win the tournament."
In 2010 we moved from our first location to a temporary site at LaGuardia Community Center on E 116th St. At that point, Sifu Garcia created the Garcia Gung Fu and Jujitsu School and has operated separately from Peace on the Street for the last twelve years. While we find the dojo a continual source of students, we developed a comprehensive conflict resolution program taught at Youth Build, the Greenhope program for formerly incarcerated women, and a local high school. We developed a training program for neighborhood youth to manage police contact effectively.
We also worked closely with the Mankind Foundation, sending over forty residents from our community through the MKP Warrior weekend, and currently work closely with All Kings. All Kings is a project similar to the Mankind Project but focuses on men impacted by the Criminal Justice system.
In 2015 we moved to our own building on East 117th St where Peace's zendo and Sifu Garcia's dojo are currently located.
We got significant support from the Nathan Cummins, Lenz Foundations, and the City of New York during the last eighteen years. I would like to thank these organizations for their kind generosity.