On what would be his 72nd birthday, chapter 93 of the Veterans for Peace will be presenting the 5th annual “John Lennon Birthday Benefit Concert” at The Ark this Tuesday.

John Lennon Birthday Benefit Concert

Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The Ark

As a national organization focused on raising awareness of the costs of war, Veterans for Peace hope to raise money for their Peace Scholarship Fund. Since its inception in 1985, this fund has raised over $20,000 to assist Michigan college students, preferably veterans, who take courses focused on the spread of peace.

This concert and scholarship fund fits the Veterans for Peace’s goals well. The Ark’s website says their members “feel strongly that one of the best ways to stop future armed conflicts is to help promote peacemaking through education.”

The idea for the peace scholarship fund came about when a shortage of “peace studies” degrees at many Michigan universities was acknowledged.

“We used to initially go to all sorts of high schools and things like that and talk about Veterans for Peace,” said Chapter 93 Vice-Coordinator Bill Shea. “And then one day we got thinking about it: Wouldn’t it be grand if we could support people who are doing peace studies as a degree?”

Though still fairly new, the fund has already impacted the Ann Arbor community significantly.

“A veteran by the name of David Flores just wrote his dissertation at U of M. We awarded him $5,000 to cover the expenses of his research, and we’ll have that on display at the show on Tuesday night,” Shea said.

The scholarship would not be possible without money raised from the John Lennon Birthday Benefit Concert, though the concert is as much a statement of peace as it is a fundraising effort. The artists featured will be playing Lennon’s music in addition to other peace-themed songs in tribute to a man who had an extreme impact as a peacekeeping advocate. They have also had some support from a famous name — Yoko Ono helped to make this project a reality with an initial donation of $10,000 and the blessing of allowing John Lennon’s name be attached to the event.

“It’s a real good chance to hear some top-shelf musicians. It’s open, it’s a family event … it’s a good musical event and it’s a good opportunity to support Veterans for Peace,” Shea said.

The chapter works diligently to get excellent local artists willing to demonstrate their art in tribute to a legend. Chris Buhalis is one of the people whose help was instrumental to putting the concert together.

“He has a long history of putting together peace concerts, so we’re very fortunate to have him.” Shea said of Buhalis. “He knows the talent, (and) he gets first-rate guys from Detroit and other places to come to play.”

In addition to the concert, Veterans for Peace continuously strives to raise community awareness of the costs of war.

“What we often do is a thing called Arlington Midwest,” Shea said. “We started to make markers, crosses and stars and other markers, reflecting the war dead. We did this a number of times out at Vet’s park and it’s a stunning display. Now we do a little bit (of a) different display. We memorialize the fallen in Michigan.”

These displays may not raise money as much for the cause, but they give a visual representation of the sometimes forgotten casualties of war — something that Veterans for Peace believes is just as important as fund raising efforts.

Whether people go for the music, the legacy, the charity or just another reason to eat birthday cake, the “Birthday Benefit Concert” is a visual display of peace and community support of which John Lennon himself would surely be proud.

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