Encouraging Peace in Central Ohio

Encouraging Peace in Central Ohio

By Stephanie Wise
Outreach and Engagement Communications Intern

An emphasis on cooperation and amity amidst the current state of international disarray and adversity is something that can be hard to stick to. The Ohio Peace Collaborative at Ohio State is proving that it is a possibility, especially for those who are determined and willing to put in the time and effort it takes to promote peace in a cooperative way.

Started in the fall of 2015, the Ohio Peace Collaborative team saw that Ohio State was able to get the International Conflict Resolution Education Conference to come to Columbus this past June. Wishing to add on to this event that attracted more than 200 people from around the world who are dedicated to promoting peace in a variety of capacities, Fiscal Coordinator Kyle McCray at the Mershon Center, Dr. John Carlarne in the Peace Studies Program, and their colleagues decided to plan a week of events that would run parallel to the conference.

"We were really focusing on looking at peace through the arts, through politics, through film, and using Ohio State and Columbus as a hub for peace in the region. That's kind of how we were founded and we started off of that," said Steven Blalock, program coordinator at the Mershon Center who has been involved in the new peace initiative since its inception.

The Ohio Peace Collaborative was able to team up with the Wexner Medical Center, the Gateway Film Center, and Global Gifts in the Short North to plan different events throughout the week. There was a two-night film festival at the Gateway Film Center and a civil discourse panel was held at the Ohio Union in conjunction with the National Institute on Civil Discourse. Other events included a karaoke night, dances of universal peace, a community event at Global Gifts, and other events and programs targeting the need for collaboration in the thrust for peace in a variety of capacities.

Global Gifts is a non-profit store in Columbus which has been centralized around fair trade advancement for the past 25 years. Alissa Head, manager of Global Gifts, was able to speak about her interaction with the Ohio Peace Collaborative.

"It was great. It was an event I really wanted to be a part of, and they were receptive to my idea for participation. The organizers came to the event and were really positive about our contribution," she said.

Head was the one who developed the prototype for the event, titled "A More Peaceful World Through Fair Trade." The event focused around how fair trade is one of the many approaches to practicing peace. Head also showed several films that had been made on the topic. Products from small farmers and producers were available to be sampled, including organic coffees, chocolates, and baked goods. Through her involvement with the Ohio Peace Collaborative and her own passion for peace and community engagement, she noted the importance of events like this that get the community involved in something bigger than themselves.

"I can't understand how anyone would not believe that community engagement is important," Head said. "With that in mind, I will say that community engagement is important so we can be mindful and intentional in our actions, and focus on education and collaboration in our communities. Working together towards greater understanding and mutual benefit is the only way forward to a more peaceful and just world."

With a clear heart and vision for promoting peace and continuing the message, Blalock spoke about why he feels this mission should be engrained within Ohio State culture.

"I think the mission of a public university - and Ohio State really kind of drives this - is having the public university actively engaged in social issues and in various problems, whether it is economic or social. We kind of want to be a hub, we want to be a resource, and we want to be able to connect the dots with the city of Columbus in solving these kind of social issues and making sure that the economy works for everyone and making sure that we're getting people to the table to talk about the impact of peace in our communities," said Blalock.

The group's next event is the Running Water 10k on Sunday, October 2 at 8 a.m. on Ohio State's campus. Participants will have the choice to run or walk a traditional 10k or complete the same course with a PackH2O water pack filled with three gallons of water. Carrying the water pack emulates the routine families in water-stressed areas of the globe go through to provide water to their families each day.

Contact: Steven Blalock, blalock.33@osu.edu

Program website: https://www.facebook.com/ohiopeacecollaborative