“A Peace Concert” inspires community and promotes nonviolence

Fitzgerald Graves, Reporter

Community members convened at a concert to celebrate a season for nonviolence on March 16. A Peace Concert was held at the Center for Spiritual Living in Downtown Bakersfield.

This annual event celebrates the advantageous activism of various civil and social activists who have impacted the landscape of social justice on an international level. The event also sought to honor their legacies by continuing the work of social reform and establishing non-targeting legislation through nonviolent measures.

The event host, Portia Choi, spoke briefly about the importance of sharing the concept of a nonviolent movement, how it sustains humanity’s integrity, and the need for us as a global village to return to productive protest.

Choi introduced David Villarino-Gonzalez, the president and CEO of Farmworker Institute of Education and Leadership Development (FIELD). He is also the son-in-law to Ceaser Chavez.

“It’s important that we as organizers, organize beyond the parameters of social media and technology,” said Villarino-Gonzalez. “Every sustaining effort for changed that was accomplished came by organizing people. People must believe in what you do in order to act.”

In a post-speech interview, Villarino-Gonzalez said, “One of the biggest things that unfortunate is that people have become more and more reliant upon technology instead of face to face organizing. Technology is good, let’s not make any mistake about that, but working with individuals will be the only way we are able to find those leaders… in an outgrowth we have all the power… which is the people.”

Choi informed the audience as to how the concert was to proceed. There were two components to each performance. The first being the speaker, who gives reverence to a distinguished nonviolent activist through telling stories about their life accomplishments, whether they be personal or public, social or civil, or having an impact globally or locally. The second part being a dance and musical performance that was culturally significant to the activist who they were celebrating. Each speaker gave quotes from their selected nonviolent advocate. The activist that were celebrated at this year’s event were Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Mahatma Gandhi.

Renegades were represented well by Professor Rosa Garza of Chicano History, a speaker during the first performance, which honored Cesar Chavez. And Ishmael Kimbrough III, Professor of History, spoke in the third performance, which honored Martin Luther King II.

Kimbrough said, “This is my second time participating in this event and it is so fulfilling.” Although he was under the weather he gave a stirring speech where he reminded us how powerful the nonviolent approach/protest can be. “Violence alienates fair minded people”, he said “In order to effect positive change violence cannot be the tool, sacrificial suffering must be!”

Hansa Patel was the speaker honoring the activist Mahatma Gandhi. She gave a speech that referred to Gandhi as the originator of nonviolent protest, as well as the first to implement fasting as a weapon of civil disobedience.

The last activist to be honored is a local and living legend, Dolores Huerta. Camila Chavez, the Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta foundation, spoke to the past and ongoing efforts of Dolores Huerta and the organization she founded.

As the Peace Concert transitioned, members of the audience expressed how the performances were inspirational and informative for some. Others felt it was an empowering or a call to action.