Hands Around Lake Merritt, a peace vigil held on April 4th, drew hundreds of people to the lake in an effort to provide a powerful display of community and solidarity.
The event was organized as part of the Season For Nonviolence Oakland, a group of local churches and organizations, whose purpose is to create an awareness of nonviolent principles and practices in efforts to create change in the community.
“It’s a silent peace protest to promote peaceful, non-violent ways of communicating our feelings to the world,” said Luis Thompson, an organizer for the event and a practitioner at the First Church of Religious Science.
“Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. believed that violence begets violence and peace and harmony bring forth the same consciousness.”
“The goal is to accept everyone as they are and to use open, clear and a loving way of communication to resolve differences and affect change,” added Thompson
Hands Around Lake Merritt was held as the concluding event of the 64-day season for peace, also coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The crowd consisted of members of the community, including many young people, holding hands in an effort to encircle the lake.
A group of 5th grade students from Sequoia Elementary School, accompanied by their teacher, were among those at the event.
“The reason we’re here is to bring peace in our neighborhood. It was our teacher’s idea and we wanted to support her,” said Channon May-Brooks.
“We are celebrating. Martin Luther King Jr. died 35 years ago and we want to bring positive energy about his life and what he lived through. We support the idea of coming together in a peaceful way,” said Marisela Ruiz-Acosta.
This class also sang “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”
Parents and organizers thought it was important for the youth to be involved in events such these.
“I monitor everything she comes to as far as politics and religion are concerned. I want her to formulate her own opinions and to be prepared for the world around her,” said one mother. “It is a peaceful ring around the lake on the 35th death anniversary and there is no better time to do this.”
“The children are our future and if we make them think in positive ways then people in power will change,” said Thompson.
Another group of students from Lowell Middle School was there with their teacher in efforts to show their displeasure with the war on Iraq and the effect it has had on the United States.
“We are fighting this war for oil, Saddam Hussein never did anything to us. Bush shouldn’t be president anymore,” said 8th grade student Arthur Mitchell. ” We are here to stop violence and robbing people. We can change war into peace.”
“I did it for my people in the world, everyone, black, white, Iraqi’s. We should stand together,” added Joshua Haynes from the same class. “My people are fighting in the front lines. I’m against the war.”
Their teacher, Abra Quinn, who organized the field trip with her class, also holds these ideals.
“I have a personal conviction and I wanted to share it with my students,” said Quinn.
“Students in Oakland, especially West Oakland have opinions about what is happening and they made the connection between the budget cuts in Oakland and where our resources are going right now. They asked me why teachers are being cut to support a war. Their instincts lie with the underdog, and it is very hard for them to see the reason behind this war.”
The event came to an end at 1 p.m. with organizers asking people to chant the word “Peace!” as a final cry for it.