Friday, September 30, 2016

University of Oregon’s 1st Annual Peace Conference

Hostelling International’s Oregon Council had their 1st Annual Peace Conference! University of Oregon’s travel club, the First Academy of Alternative Travel Tactics (FAATT) led the event in conjunction with U of O’s International Student Week. HI and FAATT’s conference was themed “Peace through Cultural Awareness”. They tabled earlier in the week promoting the event and then held their Peace Conference segment on April 12th and 13th on the U of O campus. The conference was informative, educational, and dynamically interactive with the inclusion of the Art Miles Mural Project and a live music performance by the marimba band, Zambuko.

The first speaker was Katie Dwyer, a Conflict Resolution Graduate student whose presentation was about the trials of Central Americans with their attempts to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Titled, “Conflict as the Face of Cultural Blindness: Central American Migration and Structural Violence”, Katie talked about how the current policies that exist foster our ignorance and prejudice, and lead to cruel and traumatic outcomes. Katie shared her personal experiences participating in humanitarian work with the No More Deaths organization. Working with the immigrants directly shaped her conviction that awareness and understanding is central to resolving conflicts.

The following day, the conference continued with Dian Svendsen, who talked about how art and community art projects develop intercultural awareness and encourages us to find a common ground in a non-confrontational way. Organized as an interactive workshop, Dian led the participants in a group exercise that demonstrated to the group the striking productivity of communication through a creative medium. At the end of the workshop the participants were given an opportunity to add to a large 5’ by 12’ mural intended to embody the conference’s mission and that will eventually be submitted to the Art Miles Mural Project organization.

And then they danced! FAATT and the HI Oregon Council organized a finale for their Peace Conference with a performance by Gary Spalter’s marimba band, Zambuko. Part of the Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center in Eugene, Oregon, the band played high-energy marimba music from Zimbabwe, including traditional mbira pieces arranged for marimba and contemporary pieces. However the finale was not before a flash-mob dance group descended upon the University of Oregon’s Amphitheater where Zambuko was scheduled to play. The surprise performance was serendipitous and only added to the overall triumph of the conference.

Well attended, Hostelling International’s Oregon Council and FAATT are proud of the conference’s success, and are looking forward to doing it again next year.