PITTSFIELD -- In Berkshire County and around the world, peace can take many forms: A rounded symbol on a bumper sticker. A smile and a wave of the hand. A helpful neighbor. A moment of silence. A still pose in yoga. A day without war.
Sept. 21 marks the official International Day of Peace, a proclamation first made by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981. And across Berkshire County this week, residents have been taking extra measures to observe this day and reflect on its meaning.
PHOTO GALLERY | Signs of Peace in Pittsfield
On Wednesday, Michael Johnson, the United Nations representative for the non-governmental organization Pathways to Peace, traveled with members of Great Barrington's Railroad Street Youth Project to the UN Headquarters in New York City to participate in official UN Peace Day ceremonies. This year's theme is "Education for Peace."
The UN observed the day on Wednesday instead of the actual Saturday date due to security purposes, as more world leaders arrive to participate in the UN General Assembly's 68th debate session, which begins on Tuesday.
Johnson will be on hand at 12:15 today at the First Methodist Church at 55 Fenn St. in Pittsfield, to talk about the peace goals after observing a "Minute of Silence, Moment of Peace." All, regardless of faith, are invited to participate.
"The idea is just to be still for a minute and tune into the peace that already exists in your heart and your being," Johnson said. "Since the first International Day of Peace, [Pathways to Peace Founder] Avon Mattison found peace, as a global observation, can be very powerful and poignant for the world."
As part of the UN Peace Day youth conference on Wednesday, Great Barrington native and emcee Jackson Whalan of the group Technicolor Lenses performed a bilingual electronic hip-hop song funded by the Eugene Lang Opportunity Award and produced specifically for the International Day of Peace. (On SoundCloud: http://bit.ly/1djHhoU)
Each Thursday at 5 p.m., Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice stand out on Park Square in Pittsfield, rain or shine, holding signs of peace and protesting acts of war and unjust motives of individuals and groups.
Railroad Street Youth Project will host its annual International Day of Peace Celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at its Drop-in Center, 60 Bridge St., Great Barrington.
Activities for this free, public event include: outdoor yoga, a story circle, a community art mural project; a Minute of Silence, Moment of Peace reflection at noon; a vegetarian lunch, a non-violent communications workshop, barter market and live music.
Yevin Roh, program director of RSYP's Drop-in Center, said that RSYP member Michelle Kaplan "is really passionate about non-violence and peace" and took the lead with organizing all the components of the event.
In addition, RSYP will be helping facilitate an new "Peer Theatre for Social Change" group as part of Monument Mountain Regional High Schools Spartan Launch enrichment program.
Asked why participating in the day of peace has become such a significant project for RSYP and other youths, Roh said, "I think for some of the youth here, we've always lived in a near constant state of war. For those of us growing up in the ‘90s, there were the Clinton ordered strikes, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq and now whatever intentions will come of Syria.
"For us, peace is always something on our minds," he said, "and is also part of this generation's rhetoric."
On the Web ...
Get involved with projects for peace and
UN International Day of Peace resources: www.un.org/en/events/peaceday
Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice: http://bcpj.org
Pathways to Peace: www.pathwaystopeace.org
Railroad Street Youth Project: http://rsyp.org
Center for Peace through Culture: www.centerforpeacethroughculture.org