It all began with a picture postcard entitled “Piece of the Palace” that brought back special memories.
The little card handed to Mojgan Samardar by a friend in Troy touted world-wide events being planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace in The Hague.
“My husband and I travelled to the Netherlands a couple of years ago and we visited The Hague and saw the Peace Palace,” says the Tipp City woman who says the impressive edifice is much more than just a beautiful building.
“It houses the International Court of Justice, the highest judicial body of the United Nations, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the oldest intergovernmental organization in the area of dispute resolution,” she explains. The construction was partially funded by Andrew Carnegie who donated $1.5 million. The Peace Palace opened on Aug. 28, 1913.
When she realized that the 100-year anniversary coincided with the another important peace initiative — the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington and King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech — Samardar was inspired to come up with a local event that would celebrate both and promote a message of world peace.
She’s hoping lots of folks in the community will come downtown to take part on Wednesday, Aug. 28. The focal point of the day is “An Anniversary for Peace,” a family-friendly noontime program held on the steps of Dayton’s historic old courthouse. A Peace Bike Ride and documentary film screening and reception are slated for later in the day.
“The message of peace, justice, connection and inclusion was too important not to recognize and celebrate,” Samardar says. ” All I knew deep within me is that I wanted something public, something celebratory with music. Music lifts the spirit and opens us to receive the message.”
King’s famous speech will be recited by a group of students at the noon event.
“I wanted to work with different kids from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds,” says Anthony Whitman, chair of the local MLK-Dayton committee. Among those participating are Stephanie Patino-Garcia, a 12th-grader at Stivers School for the Arts, Devda Mirzayeva, a 10th-grader at Stebbins High Schools, and Malia Mabry, an eighth-grader at Stivers School for the Arts.
The program is being hosted by WYSO-Radio’s Rev Cool and will also include a proclamation by Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell and live music by Seefari Reggae, a husband-wife duo from Wilberforce.
“I am working on an acoustic version of “Imagine”and have an original song “Peace and Love” that we will perform if time allows,” says Tom Carroll, who says he and his wife, Melody, have many peace and anti-war songs in their repertoire.
Samardar, an avid listener and volunteer for WYSO public radio, says the station’s Niki Dakota will focus ‘Excursions’ program on Wednesday on a peace-related theme.
“I want the message to be that peace is a solution,” says Samardar, who was born in Iran and came to the United States at the age of 14. “We all want peace whether we are Italian or Asian or African or American. It’s in our nature to want peace.”
The steps she took
An engineer by profesison, Samardar said she’d never before organized a community event and had no idea where to begin.
“I didn’t know what to do, where to go or who to ask,” she says. “So I just started contacting various peace organizations to see if any of them had planned other events for Aug. 28. “I learned there are many wonderful people in the Dayton area that have been working toward peace issues — different ways, different goals, but basically spreading the message that peace is a solution,” she says.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about the postcard so I contacted Dr. Hope Elizabeth May, director of the Center for Professional and Personal Ethics at Central Michigan University. She is also the project director for the “Piece of the Palace” project and works very closely with the Peace Palace in the Hague to promote participation in the project as a “teachable moment.”
Meeting London Coe
The plans really began to take shape when Samardar dropped in to introduce herself to London Coe, owner of the Peace on Fifth shop in the Oregon District. Coe says she is actively working to fight human trafficking through her fair trade gift shop.
“We were both on the same wave length,” says Samardar. “We immediately connected.”
By the end of their first meeting, the two women had already come up with a community-oriented plan that would incorporate both a central activity and additional activities as well.
Because she’d previously organized a Peace Bike ride for adults, Coe suggested a family-friendly ride at the end of the day.
“Riders can just show up and for those who aren’t comfortable doing four miles, we’ll have a smaller ride as well,” she explains.
The longer ride will end with a reception at the Missing Peace Art Space where the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell, is being shown at 6 p.m. The film tells the story of a group of Liberian women who in 2003 overthrew the regime of dictator Charles Taylor. Featured in the film is Lima Booey, one of the heroic women who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
The gallery hosting the evening event is run by Gabriela Pickett of Dayton and opened in 2009.
“We wanted to have a forum for artists who want to create artwork with a message of social justice,” says Pickett, who is originally from Mexico.
Pickett credits Samardan for being the person “at the center of this whole thing” who reached out to others to create this first-time special event. She says such collaborations are becoming a trend in Dayton. In this case, it’s all being done without a budget — everyone involved is volunteering time and talent.
Coe, who is sponsoring the reception and serving both local foods and international fair trade foods, says too often we forget that the Miami Valley has a rich history of peace.
“One example is our relationship with the Underground Railway,” she says. “That was really a peace gesture because we were putting our nose into the work of honoring humanity and the peace within all of us because we believed slavery was wrong.”
In recent years, says Samardar, Dayton has done a lot to promote peace.
“That includes the Peace Museum, hosting the negotiations which led to the Dayton Peace Accords, and the establishment of the Dayton Literary Peace Prizes,” she says. “Dayton has done a lot to make itself known as a City of Peace.”
How to Go:
What: “An Anniversary for Peace,” a public celebration.
When: Noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28
Where: Steps of the Old Courthouse, Downtown Dayton
Other related events:
- Peace Bike Ride, at 6 p.m. Riders are asked to meet at the Peace on Fifth shop, 508 E. Fifth, in Dayton’s Oregon District. Those who would like to participate in a short ride should contact London Coe, (937) 367-7215.
- Movie screening and reception, 6-8:30 p.m. at the Missing Peace Art Space, 234 Dutoit, Dayton. The film is “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” billed as a “powerful film about of peace, hope and determination.”
Admission: All events are free and open to the public.
For more information: Email firstname.lastname@example.org and search Facebook: CELEBRATE PEACE
Sponsors: Piece of the Palace, MLK- Dayton, Inc., Missing Peace Art Space, Peace on Fifth, Jes McMillian Mosaics, Welker Studio, Classical 88.1 WDPR, 91.3 WYSO Public Radio, Linda Phillips Photography, Jon Wohlfert Videography
To see and hear Mojgan Samardar talking about the peace event, see mydaytondailynews.com
Behind the scenes
Every Sunday in Life & Arts, we connect you with the events and people who define Dayton’s art scene. You will find information about top upcoming local arts events, plus in-depth conversations with the people who are making a difference through their contributions to local arts.