At the conclusion of April’s Peace Fair at Brooklyn College, we gathered on the street outside with Haitian/Brooklyn group Raram of New York. The enormous band played our parade through the streets of Bushwick and back again, carrying the day of learning about and spreading peace and justice out of the college and into the neighborhood.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The 8th annual Brooklyn Peace Fair took place on April 28, 2012, at the Brooklyn College Student Center. This year’s theme was: Ending War, Promoting Peace.
While workshops, discussions, tabling and much more was going on throughout the building, the Arts & Culture Committee was primarily downstairs in the Club Room with musicians, poets, actors and children performers – and outside with even more musicians.
The day in the basement began with Laugh John Laugh (John Munnelly), a songwriter from Ireland who’s melodic and humorous songs were an invigorating opening to the day, particularly his sing-along, “We Are the 99%.”
After Munnelly, a young poet and Brooklyn College student, Lakeisha M Saintil, read several original pieces, including these lines from “A tribute to my people”:
I am the darker one
My skin black as the rave that flies
I have been dealt many a hard blow
I have been whipped by those brutes
they call men
I have been kicked to the ground
I have carried the bricks that built
the foundation of the pyramids of Egypt
all on my bare back
I have walked the waters of the Nile
I was taken from my lands by force
I was bought across the waters,
to foreign lands, and stripped of my pride
I have plowed the fields of plantations,
with the sting Ora whip on my bare back
I have been spat on, and called foul names
But still, I will ruse above it
Because I am not just someone
I am a person
I am African American
And, like all men, I was created by God
Next was playwright and performer, Dan Kinch, performing his one-person piece, “A Clown, a Hammer, a Bomb and God,” part of his Occupy the Empire tour. Dan said the play was based on a true story of an activist priest, Carl Kabat, who dressed in a clown suit and broke into a Minuteman II missile base in North Dakota. Funny and genuine, the performance was a powerful reminder of how easy it is to take action – both positive and negative.
In the afternoon, Kathleen Stansell was first to perform with her one-woman show about the Biotic Baking Brigade (BBB), “A Good Day to Pie.” The play, written by Dan Kinch, is also a part of the Occupy the Empire Tour. The BBB’s idea was to find particularly heinous politicians and business people and “pie” them – throw a pie in their face. Kathleen’s piece, which is largely about food and discusses genetically-modified foods, at length, was enlightening and funny. By the time the piece had finished, the Club Room was at standing-room-only capacity. This is when Kathleen pie’d herself.
Following the play was Greenpoint-based musician Anya Skidan, equipped with guitar, keyboard and ukulele. Along with beautiful renditions of originals like “Spiritual” and “Shine the Brighter,” Anya played a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest,” singing, “As the days fly past / Will we lose our grasp / Our fuse it in the sun?,” a subtle reminder of the urgency of the Peace Fair’s ultimate goal of Ending War, Promoting Peace.
After Anya, a host of child performers and A&C members Shawn Walsh and Sandra Israel performed The Lorax.
The A&C also had music outside the entire day, beginning in the morning with Laugh John Laugh, and then A&C member Dennis Gronim and his dobro. The Occuponics, with Steve Baldwin, also played outside. Many passers-by, attracted by the music, made their way into the Peace Fair to take part in the other activities.
With all this flourish of activities in the basement of the Student Center, the A&C committee presence was felt by the distinguished and inspiring performances in the Gold Room. Functioning as openers for the key speakers there was singer/songwriter Dave Lippman, whose insightful and diverse songs covering the issues that we face today, was a fitting beginning for start of the keynote speakers sessions.
The brilliant and powerful performance of Kevin Augustine (Lone Tribe) demonstrated how the use of visuals and silence can be as effective, if not more so, in conveying the horror, sadness and isolation of war.
As people exited the Gold Room, they were serenaded by the witty and entertaining Raging Grannies, a staple of BFP’s Peace Fair.
Finally, as always, the day ended with an outside parade through the streets immediately around the Student Center in the Flatbush neighborhood, led by the NYC-based Haitian band, Raram of New York. This enormous band of percussion and wind instruments was a sight and sound to behold as we made our way through the sunshiny streets of Flatbush. Pedestrians and drivers waved, honked, or just smiled in wonder as the band played and everyone else followed behind, bringing some of the peace and justice culture of music fun and love to whoever wanted to take it. And maybe even to those who didn’t.
We understand that many artists are constantly balancing their lives between their passion for artistic creation and that for activism. The conflict of an unpredictable schedule can make it difficult for some artists to commit to steady participation in a peace and justice group.
Our newly formed committee is divided into two categories allowing for participation in the capacity you choose.
- A&C committee members-A&C Committee members are willing to actively participate as well as assist in planning events and working on activities of the committee. They attend the bi-weekly/monthly meetings and are collectively involved in the progression of the committees short and long term goals.
- A&C participants-A&C participants are part of a pool of artists that are called upon to utilize their various skill to assist BFP or other progressive Brooklyn organizations. This occurs on a periodic volunteer basis as needed. Your Work! Your Art! Your Time! Whether you are a student on the go or a superhero trying to save the world, becoming a participant can help you find an activist balance for your artistic goals.
If you are interested in becoming apart of this exciting, brand new committee of Brooklyn For Peace, proceed to our sign up page.
You can also call us 718-624-5921 or email us at: artists [at] brooklynpeace dot org
April 12, 2012
Emily Mendelsohn, one of our committee members is currently in Africa. We miss Emily and wanted her to know how proud we are of her and all the work she is doing.
She recently sent us a letter that we are posting to give everyone an update on her activities.
Thinking of you and the coming Peace Fair. Break Legs! How is it going?
Busy here with my tiny part in this massive arts and social justice project. Making up some training techniques with Ugandan actors. We’re having an informal presentation/conversation on a play about the Rwandan genocide here at the National Theater in Kampala in a couple of weeks. The genocide was not in Rwanda , but affected the region – the army of Rwandan diaspora who ended the genocide lived and trained in Uganda. Many people in the cast remember that in ’94, people in Uganda stopped eating fish because so many bodies ended up in Lake Victoria. And, yet, the details of the genocide are not so much known here. There were even Ugandan actors who traveled with me to Rwanda who weren’t sure there had been a genocide in Rwanda. To tell the story, and to have a way to tell that is not theater-for-development (NGO’s ravaged the performance scene in Uganda by paying artists to create quick, result and message-driven work), I hope is useful…
Soulographie – a 17-play, grass-roots organized project that creates contemplative space to consider 20th C genocide, especially those in which America is complicit – goes up in November at La MaMa. I hope you’ll be able to come!
There’s also a benefit April 29 (also at La MaMa). If you are interested and its available to you, it could be a great way to meet other people working in arts and social change. I think these are some of the real stalwarts of the field. http://www.soulographie.org/the-gala/
My best to you all and, again, have a blast at the Fair!
Thanks Emily for your incredible letter. Stay safe and we are always thinking of you!
Arts & Culture Committee
Friday, January 27, 2012,
Brooklyn For Peace’s Arts & Culture group hosted its second event at WORD bookstore in Greenpoint.
Titled “The WORD On Peace,” the event sought to bring together artists, writers and musicians with the Greenpoint community – both those interested in peace and justice, and those interested in books and culture.
The evening began with a reading of “We Will See,” a poem by Ahmed Faiz Ahmed and translated by Rafiq Kathwari, part of the Occupy Wall Street poetry group. The poem promises:
We will see
That promised day
Chiseled on tablets of pre-eternity
We, too, will see
Pyramids of tyranny
Floating like wisps of cotton
The evening’s next reader was Susan Metz, who read from original works as well as a Walt Whitman poem. Of her own verse, Metz read:
Peace Waveless, windless silver and gold glitter trail across the placid sea to the setting sun
A harmonious chorale praise in an unfamiliar language
Under a featherbed – ataraxia, absence of emotional disturbance-halcyon winter afternoon with long-haired, grey and white Muffin purring at my side, serene and silent, I slip over and out
The next reader was Professor Jan Clausen, who teaches at Eugene Lang College and the Goddard College MFA Writing Program.
The first musical performance of the evening was from Madeline Fix-Hansen, performing solo without her band, Alma Garnett. Madeline performed some original songs, including “Song of the Chicken Fair” and “All These Riddled Maps” and a cover of Exene Cervenka’s “Leave Heaven Alone.”
After Madeleine, a group of three poets from Detroit read. Including Jhon Clark, James Hart III and Anita Schmaltz, the Detroit poets read poems of pain, altruism, hope and despair. James Hart is the director and editor of White Print Inc. publishing.
Closing the evening was Greenpoint-based musician Anya Skidan. Anya played several original songs, including “Be Here Now” and “Traveler’s Heart.”
The packed, standing room only event, filled the basement of WORD bookstore for an evening of poetry, music and peace building.
Many thanks to the artists who participated and those in attendance that help make this event a great success!