By Grace Prosniewski, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 9, 2013
Few artists have so influenced and inspired people to work toward societal change as John Lennon. From his days with The Beatles, through his solo work until his death in 1980, Lennon was an iconic and unfaltering proponent of peace.
Veterans for Peace John Lennon Birthday Concert
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
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As his 73rd birthday approaches, fans of Lennon have an opportunity to celebrate his life and ideals while supporting a worthy cause. The sixth annual “Veterans for Peace John Lennon Birthday Concert,” put on by the Veterans for Peace Chapter 93, features several local artists who will perform a wide array of Lennon’s works and other peace-related songs.
For the first event held in Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery, Chapter President Bob Krzewinski contacted Yoko Ono’s people in New York and asked to use John Lennon’s name for the peace event. About a month later, the chapter received a $10,000 check from Ono in support of the event.
The concert continued to grow and develop from then on, so much so that organizers decided to move it to a bigger venue.
“The biggest change made to the event was moving it last year from the Corner Brewery to The Ark,” said Chapter Vice-Coordinator William Shea. “The Brewery was a free place, while The Ark cost significantly more. But at the Corner we had to get the sound system, lights, set up publicity, etc. But at The Ark, that’s all taken care of. Plus, because of the size of The Ark, there’s the potential to make, or lose, a bit more money.”
The event promises to be a thoughtful forum on combating acts of war and systematic violence through peaceful means.
“The concert,” Shea said, “serves two purposes: to raise money for the Utah Phillips/J. David Singer Chapter of Veterans For Peace’s Peace Scholarship Fund, a fund that has supported 10 college students who are studying conflict resolution, be it in a single course, a degree-granting program or research-dissertation work, and to get like-minded peace activists together to celebrate peace efforts throughout the world.”
The criterion for receiving donations from the event has changed to accommodate more candidates in different concentrations.
“The award system has been opened up,” Shea said, “to include almost any Michigan resident who is studying conflict resolution and has a need for funds to accomplish their activities and goals. We’ve given out as little as $250 for a small, one-time project to as much as $5,000 for financial assistance on a major dissertation project.”
Lennon’s aggressive activism against war serves as an inspiration for others who believe in peace to act on their beliefs.
“Lennon was a militant pacifist,” Shea said. “He knew full well that you often have to get in warmongers’ faces to get them to pay attention to the fundamental destruction on the lives and psyche of those affected by war and conflict.”
The call for peace is especially poignant when coming from veterans, men and women who have experienced the brutality of war firsthand and who refuse to let such atrocities continue unchallenged.
“I am a Vietnam-era vet and when I meet younger vets, we often understand that the wars we’ve been in may be from a different time, but in reality there is no difference between one war and another,” Shea said. “A war is a war, be it World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. The destruction on all is the same, the (post-traumatic stress disorder) is the same, the dehumanizing effect on both military and civilian participants is the same, the hatred is the same.”
With all the recent discussion about taking military action in Syria, Lennon’s message of giving peace a chance is as relevant today as ever.
“War seems to be the first solution by many,” Shea said, “when truly it should never be considered a solution at all.”