Peace of Art in Oberlin

Thursday, September 30, 2010 1:41 AM

Peace of Art Goes to Oberlin College

Peace of Art: Design for Change is now a traveling exhibit and Oberlin College, Ohio was the first city outside of El Paso to display it. As I flew to Oberlin College, I was not sure what to expect.

The exhibit would be up for display from September 17-23 in a public space on the campus and was part of a two-day event that included a lecture by Cd. Juarez mayor, Jose Reyes Ferriz, “A Discussion of Public Policy, Crime and Security in Cd. Juarez” and a lecture by myself on Peace of Art.

Oberlin College President, Marvin Krislov, welcomed us at a dinner that launched the event.  Afterwards, the lecture hall was packed with hundreds of students eager to learn about Cd. Juarez. The mayor spoke for about one hour. I listened carefully and learned many things about Cd. Juarez but disagreed on some of the information provided. The students’ response was phenomenal. I was impressed at their level of knowledge on the subject matter and interest. I wondered why these kids cared so much about a place that is over 1,400 miles away.  Most of the students had already seen the exhibit and had insightful comments on it. Reyes Ferriz also took the time to visit the artwork and expressed his appreciation for the Peace of Art initiative.

The following day, I prepared for the lecture. The students were ready to hear about Peace of Art. We showed videos with the stories of victims of violence and a slideshow with the children’s artwork. We discussed how Peace of Art came about, the process, challenges and blessings that we’ve encountered.  We spoke about the artwork itself and how El Pasoans and Juarenzes responded to it. We talked about the impact of the violence on the everyday person in the Borderland and asked the students to think about their role in the drug war, “Every time you are about to light up a joint or use any other kind of drug, think about the effects on the people in Cd. Juarez,” I said,  “Their lives are changing because the American people consume and demand drugs… Help us end the drug war.” We explained the Peace of Art Fund and on how they can help by visiting this website and make a tax-deductible donation.  Students were receptive to the Peace of Art message. Both events stirred up conversation and hopefully created awareness. A young man approached me and said that Peace of Art was, “…art with a cause… art with a message... a good message… a message of peace, hope and solidarity. It is inspiring to see that people within the community decided to be pro-active and do so in such a creative manner.” My heart smiled.

I took a morning walk through Oberlin before I came back to El Paso. I walked through the beautiful streets with endless trees that were already turning gold and orange. I felt a soft cool breeze as I thought about the events that occurred the previous days. I wondered about the impact of taking Peace of Art to a small town like Oberlin. Oberlin residents were all friendly and hospitable. They smiled and greeted each other in the streets. I spoke with various locals from this peaceful town. Everyone knew each other and they proudly boasted on how they all, “look out for each other.” Wow, they look out for each other… what an awesome concept.  It made me dream of a Borderland without drug wars… where people look out for each other regardless on what side of the border they live in. I couldn’t help but to think that there couldn’t have been a better place to launch the traveling exhibit.

Please continue to pray for our neighbors in Cd. Juarez.

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