“PEACE MEANS EMPATHY”: MEET NEW SPEAKER PRIYA SHAH

Peace is Loud is thrilled to welcome new speaker Priya Shah, a creative artist, entrepreuneur and the Founder of non-profit organization The Simple Good. Learn more about what has shaped Priya’s work bringing together art & activism, the authors she considers “required reading” for activism, and what inspires her to keep going.

How did your volunteer work abroad inspire you to start The Simple Good (TSG), and how did you come up with that name for the organization?

I have volunteered in quite a range of contexts, from Mother Theresa’s orphanage to slums in South Africa to working with inner-city youth, and these experiences really have provided me with an understanding of the universality of humanity. At the end of the day, we all worry about the same things, cry about the same things, and the fundamental element of “good” is also the same to all of us, and that is what connects us as human beings. Drawn from inspiration from my travels, TSG started as a crowd-sourced photoblog 6 years ago where I asked the world to share their meaning of “the simple good.” The blog went viral around the world, which triggered the idea of bringing this conversation into communities that need it the most. The result has been an art program incorporating a crowd-sourced curriculum to teach students about different perspectives on the meaning of “good.” This not only exercises the brain, but also has uplifted communities around the world.

The name from the organization was the name of the blog that started it all — The Simple Good. That name was derived through conversations with friends — we wanted to be very direct about the small bits of positivity we wanted people to tell us about, and continually the concepts “simple” and “good” came up, so it just came together so perfectly!

What role do you see art playing in driving social change?

Art has always played a crucial role in driving social change. It is rare to find movements that have not had art incorporated into their methodologies of social change. Policy and rules can only do so much to drive social change — when it comes to engaging people and communities to change our public will, and using impact and everyday actions to improve society for all of us, we need communities to be armed with knowledge, creativity and the ability to connect with each other. The arts has been that crucial piece in driving collaboration, innovation, thought leadership, economic upliftment, educational achievement and peace — which all impacts how we all can live our lives for the better.

What does “peace” mean to you, and what would a truly peaceful world look like?

Peace to me means empathy. You cannot cause violence without causing pain in someone you know is connected to you. By practicing empathy in our everyday lives — through the arts, dialogue, travel — we have the ability to humanize the unknown and transform the global landscape into more of a small community. A peaceful world would be a celebration and union of cultures and people around the world. By doing so, we break down barriers and experience the ability to connect to communities of the world outside of our own — which results in creating accountability to ourselves to take care of each other.

What book(s) would you consider “required reading” for those who want to work in social justice/activism?

I think it is really important to read about history, philosophy and poetry from different parts of the world in order to understand effective activism in the history of humanity. Many of the conflicts we see today, we have seen before. Similarly, many of the human behaviors we have seen today, have been seen before. I really enjoy reading James Baldwin, Rumi, Krishnamurti, Malcom Gladwell and the list goes on! But these writers have really pointed out interesting patterns of humanity which is important to understand as we pursue work towards social change.

What/who gives you hope and encourages you to keep working for social change?

Every youth and adult that I work with that ends up taking on the mission of The Simple Good and makes it a personal mission to promote understanding within their communities to make them happier places. It’s really a beautiful thing to see how something that started so small could end up impacting people for the rest of their lives. This is what gives me hope, because I know that if all of us this did this for each other, everyday, the world will change for the better very quickly.

To read Priya’s full bio or to book her for a speaking event, please visit her profile page.