Give Peace a Chance (and a Parade)
The International Day of Peace (IDP), first celebrated in September 1982, will sweep over the world this year on Friday, Sept. 21.
In the past, dewy white doves are freed in Afghanistan, India nods in prayer, African school children write blessings, and the Mountain Peacemakers and Elkland Art Center host a downtown Boone parade.
The planning for this year’s parade will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 21 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Watauga County Library Meeting Room. The meeting is free and open to all input from the public.
Seven years ago, organizers of the Mountain Peacemakers, Joanna Weintraub, Lexie Danner and Cindy Ball, patched together a small parade to tromp down Depot and King streets on the IDP.
“The idea was spawned by what we saw early on about untruths being told to the American people,” Weintraub said.
Jeremy Gilley was, to Weintraub, IDP’s messiah, as he pushed the General Assembly to carve International Day of Peace into every Sept. 21, instead of having the symbolism continue on fluctuating days.
The yearly New York peace bell ringing fell deaf with the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, the year before Gilley’s hope became a reality, and Sept. 21 became the International Day of Peace.
Gilley, a filmmaker, was determined in 1999 to reach 3 billion people with the message of peace by 2012. After sinking into a war-ravaged Somalia, he decided that his project could not be allowed to fail.
“I’m not going to stop at the end of one year,” he said. “I’m going to stop when this (peace) happens.”
One parade is young in comparison, but is, as the International Day of Peace itself, one of noninterference and awareness.
“It’s simply visual,” Weintraub said. “There were a lot of these (parades) going on around the wars of the past decade, and like then, this parade’s purpose is to make you think about what you can do to apply this concept.”
The Mountain Peacemakers named its initiative “pro-peace,” because, as Anam Prem said, “Simply the absence of war is not peace.”
Their group has hosted anti-violent teach-ins at the Jones House, promoted moments of silence, crafted workshops in elementary schools, hung world flags from Basic Humanity and worked with religious groups to plan peace discussions and events. All of these outlets will be discussed as additions to this year’s parade.
The group is open to a variety of ideas, including a critical mass bike parade, yoga classes, a homemade free meal, or any peace-promoting arm. They will also discuss closing down the street and confirm a template for the parade to travel.
“We’re relatively safe in America, in terms of conflict,” Weintraub said. “Our wars are displaced, and, too often, unless we have a mother, brother, father or sister on the battlefield, our thoughts are displaced with it.”
She said that the one day of peace should embrace every other day of the year through simple Watauga County outlets like “open dialogue and transparency in our politics, decision making, and businesses.”
All of the money donated to the Mountain Peacemakers returns to the community through the parade or one of their many workshops. The group holds a meeting on the 21st of every month. For more information, email (email@example.com)
The Watauga County Public Library is located at 140 Queen St. in downtown Boone.