After a string of school shootings in D.C. in 2000, Hawah Kasat co-founded a local non-profit that could break the cycle of violence and build compassionate, healthy communities through the transformative power of music, arts, and peace education. Eight years later, One Common Unity, his passion project, has become a full-time and full-fledged community force, winning awards for its good works.
Kasat, as co-founder and executive director One Common Unity, was honored on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as Georgetown’s 2019 John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award recipient at the university’s Let Freedom Ring! celebration, held at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Previous recipients of the award, which was named for Georgetown’s legendary head basketball coach emeritus, include civil and children’s rights advocates. Kasat was chosen as a local leader working to solve issues key to shaping D.C. and its community.
“Through the terrific work of the One Common Unity organization, Hawah Kasat has deepened opportunities for young people in Washington to thrive through peace education and engagement in music and the arts,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia prior to the event.
Each school year, One Common Unity engages approximately 5,000 youth, age 11 to 18, at fifteen Washington D.C. public schools with its Fly By Light program. These youth face issues with chronic depression, substance abuse, previous incarceration, domestic violence and trauma, and discrimination based on race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Many are also facing school truancy, suspension, and expulsion.
One Common Unity provides safe, supportive spaces where they discover their authentic selves, connect with nature, and are equipped with the skills, tools, and support to disrupt cycles of violence and poverty. Today, the organization has worked with more than 25,000 youth, families, teachers, and community members in One Common Unity’s unique art and music programs.
“I believe empathy, compassion, cooperation and kindness can be taught,” says Kasat. “We start with modeling nonviolent behavior and then create safe spaces for dialogue and healing. By fostering the social-emotional literacy of youth, teachers and parents, we are creating real pathways for academic achievement and reducing violence in our communities.”
The Legacy of a Dream award provides a year of sustained partnership and broader recognition for the organization and its leader.