The steps of Hatcher Graduate Library were transformed into a stage Sunday as local artists performed songs and spoken word poetry during the 10th annual P.E.A.C.E Day celebration.
With the goal of connecting students from different cultures and communities, the event also aimed to create P.E.A.C.E. — promote ethnic and cultural equality — and create a space for University community members to network and learn about one another.
University alum Kevin Szawala, a youth leader at St. James Parish in Novi, Mich., said he founded P.E.A.C.E Day in 2006 as a member of Students Empowering Students, an organization whose mission is to create a world marked by peace, freedom and awareness.
“When I was on campus at U of M, diversity was the staple, we always talked about diversity, but how we connect the diversities is the other issue,” he said. “I was friends with so many people on campus so I was across the races, cultures and religions. I embraced the diversity, I grew from it, and I wanted other people to experience that same thing. This was just one event where we could bring people together from the campus and the community and they could meet people from all walks of life and have fun doing it.”
The event featured musical performances by Cayla Stus, a member of Szawala’s church group. While Szawala hyped up the crowd, Stus performed remixes of contemporary hits including Jessie J’s “Price Tag” and “We Are the World.” Other performers included Royal Mitten, a Michigan-based rap duo, and Sheila Burke and Joe Kidd, a folk duo who performed songs from their new album Everybody Has a Purpose.
Szawala said holding P.E.A.C.E Day is important because it gives students and community members hope.
“Every time it gets closer to September, I get text messages saying ‘I hope you’re having P.E.A.C.E. Day again,'” he said. “I have people that have moved outside of Michigan that still ask me if I’m having it because it’s given them hope. Because of that I keep pushing.”
Throughout the event, Kevin encouraged attendees to mingle, and chalk messages of hope together on the Diag. Domino’s Pizza and Peace Tea, who sponsored Sunday’s event, provided refreshments for attendees.
“We stumbled across it,” Engineering graduate student Zach Mandell said. “We were just trying to go to the library, but this event distracted us, and it was a good distraction,” he said. “We wanted to show support for the event because people weren’t really involved in it so that’s what drew us to it. I hope we can promote peace to the greatest extent possible.”
LSA freshman Sereniti Torres said she learned about P.E.A.C.E Day on Facebook, and decided she would attend with friends.
“I like the ideas they’re promoting about equality. That’s very important to me,” she said.
Szawala said he hopes students were empowered to take the lead in planning other peace-themed events on campus. He said he hopes to expand P.E.A.C.E. Day to locations in Detroit as well as other college campuses in Michigan.