Last Sunday, Kennedy Plaza welcomed a host of international dance groups and humanitarian organizations for the seventh annual Celebration of the United Nations International Day of Peace. The festival commemorates the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, though the U.N. passed a resolution in 2001 to name Sept. 21 the official day of peace.
Attendees also had the opportunity to visit with representatives from Habitat for Humanity, the American Friends Services Committee and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. Guests also tie-dyed T-shirts and created peace flags and peace pinwheels. At 5:00 p.m., participants took part in a silent walking meditation around Burnside Park, and the event ended with prayers from clergy of many faiths.
Ginny Fox, the event coordinator, said the event was established to promote an environment of peace in people's lives and work, as opposed to protest war.
Through Fox's dedication, the International Day of Peace grew from a small gathering at Providence Friends Meeting, a Quaker meeting house, to a month-long celebration across the city. Fox collaborated in the Peace Art Project, an exhibit at the University of Rhode Island running until Sept. 30, and the peace-themed exhibition at Providence Art Windows, a community project that displays art year-round in empty retail areas. She also helped organize the youth show for Rhode Island for Community and Justice to honor Sept. 11.
Fox said she has found that Rhode Island residents are responsive to her work in creating a positive environment.
"I've been here (to the festival) three times now," said Erin Smithers, who lives in Warwick. "I'm a Quaker, and this is what we do. We all live in one world. It's not just some hippie thing. This is real."
"These days there is so much venomous rhetoric," said Jan Seymour-Ford, a representative of Standing on the Side of Love, a Unitarian Universalist group that works against identity-based violence. "And it's important to have these events that stand for peace and dignity, and to be around people who feel the same way."