St. Thomas Observes Peace Day over the Air Waves

A small group of Thomians gathered Saturday to observe the 2013 United Nations International Day of Peace, not in a room or on a field, but over the air waves.

St. Thomas community activist DaraMonifah Cooper had hoped to organize a gathering on the University of the Virgin Islands golf course to celebrate the UN Peace Day. Last week, logistical problems cost Cooper her chosen venue. Instead of cancelling the event, Cooper, who also organized the 2012 Peace Day observance, decided to change the venue – this time, to a broadcast medium.

Using her Saturday radio show, Sankofa Saturdays on UVI’s student-run radio station, WUVI AM 1090, Cooper invited peace and non-violence advocates to discuss peace efforts and non-violent alternatives.

Non-violence advocate Carmen Hamilton joined Cooper in the studio and talked to listeners about the Alternatives to Violence Project, an international network of volunteers who run workshops on nonviolent conflict resolution. The St. Thomas chapter of AVP has been in existence for eight years, according to Hamilton, thanks to some help from members of the Interfaith Coalition in St. Croix.

“The way of nonviolence is ongoing,” said Hamilton. “You can’t just do it in one shot. It’s an everyday adventure.”

Hamilton has worked on peace and nonviolence projects for the last 15 years. One of her earlier projects was the New York-based Creative Conflict Response for Children, a program that taught children how to navigate their everyday lives in the city. After working in Nigeria, Belize and the Cayman Islands, Hamilton brought her advocacy for non-violence to the Virgin Islands.

“What we found over the last few years is the amount of violence per capita that has taken over the island,” she shared.

Hamilton added that the local AVP is not just for young people, but is open to all organizations interested in learning conflict resolution.

“We’re working working with youth organizations, schools, non-violence groups, domestic groups, whoever opens the doors to us,” she said. “This to empower people and to let them know that nonviolence is a way.”

According to Hamilton, however, AVP still needs enough trained facilitators, especially in St. Thomas, before it can fully engage the community. Throughout the rest of the year, AVP will hold a series of two-day workshops themed “Changing the Face of Violence.” The workships will be geared toward interpersonal conflict resolution and personal growth skills.

“Conflict is something we all go through every day,” Hamilton said. “Making choices, and empowering our people to make good choices is something we try to do and give them tools to do.”

The AVP Basic Workshop Schedule is:

• Sept. 28-29 – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Basic)
• Oct. 26-27 – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Advanced Basic)
• Nov. 9-10 – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Advanced Basic)
• Dec. 14-15 – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Training for Facilitators)
• Jan. 11-12 – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Training for Facilitators)

Nashville-based Virgin Islander Gigi de Lugo joined the radio discussion via telephone to share the Sept. 21 release of “Planet CrindelStar,” an international album honoring the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. The album, a collaboration of American and European artists and produced by De Lugo, will be played by the United Nations Radio around the world.

De Lugo, known locally to many as the daughter of the Honorable Ron de Lugo, is an award-winning 30-year veteran of the music and film industry. Also a dedicated peace activist, she co-founded One Human Race for Justice in Nashville.

De Lugo excitedly shared her recent appointment as Global Peace Ambassador for SPMUDA International, a global non-government organization also working toward peace and non-violence.

“It took me a few days to settle into that,” said De Lugo. “It is a responsibility that I wanted all my life.”

De Lugo emphasized that her peace efforts, including the upcoming year-long campaign to promote “Planet CrindelStar,” owe much to support from Virgin Islands-based businesses and organizations, including Stop The Bleeding, Karibbean Kids of St Thomas, and Itiba Natural Beauty of St Croix.

“As a global ambassador for peace, I am representing the Virgin Islands in that regard,” said De Lugo. “That is my identity. I am a Virgin Islander representing global peace.”

Information about Planet CrindelStar can be found at www.voicesunited4peace.com.

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