Local civil rights leaders, musicians join RCAH in a PeaceJam Jam for last WNL of academic year

April 28, 2016

On Wednesday, April 6, 2016, RCAH students and faculty jammed late into the evening with several local civil rights leaders and musicians. The last WNL of the year, the PeaceJam Jam, was structured to show students how artists and community leaders can create positive change in their communities.

The event was co-organized by the RCAH and the MSU PeaceJam members and RCAH students Sariah Metcalfe and Charlie Burg.

"I filter all of my emotions and experiences through music and it has done nothing but enhance the social environment in which I have found myself, and something I greatly value is the importance of community,” Burg said. “And the PeaceJam Jam is our attempt to draw a connection between figurative dissonance and literal harmony."

Because of the success of last semester’s PeaceJam, the WNL committee decided to incorporate a PeaceJam this time around and incorporate the work of local civil rights leaders.

In a message to the RCAH community, Dean Stephen Esquith said the timing of the event coincides with an increased awareness of violence in our local community, the state, and the world.

“Peace is more than just the absence of war. It is a process of building and re-building consensus over difficult, sometimes even divisive issues,” he said later. “We are privileged to celebrate the work of one of our most successful peace-builders, John Duley, and those who have worked side by side with John to build consensus in order to address the issues that inevitably arise in a healthy democracy. They are all peace-builders par excellence, and we will honor their work by writing another chapter in RCAH’s contribution to this worthy causes.”

Musicians Allena Hudgins and Eric Smith started out the night with original music.

Former Lansing Mayor David Hollister then spoke about his experiences as a young teacher in Durand and later in Mississippi. In Mississippi, Hollister worked with the Student Tutorial Education Project (STEP) at Rust College, which helped to provide opportunities for students to gain understanding of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

“I came back committed to peace, justice and equality,” Hollister said. “You need hope, courage, strategies and goals. And if you provide that, you can make change.”

Following Hollister’s talk, RCAH student Shaylyn Adams performed an original spoken word poem.

Former Michigan State Representative Lynn Jondahl spoke about his time in college protesting the Vietnam War, as well as his time working in the government.

Musicians Stefanie Haapala and Ade Olaniran took the stage before David and Beverly Wiener talked about their time working at RCAH’s predecessor Justin Morrill College in the late 1960s. The Wieners said their time working with John Duley on the Field Study Program influenced them to “think globally and act locally.”

Musician Gabe Lawler performed a couple of songs before handing the stage over to John Duley, a local civil rights leader who’s been involved in everything from the Civil Rights Movement and the STEP Program to Justin Morrill College and the development of Edgewood Village.

The night rounded out with a Q&A for the speakers and performers.

Story by RCAH student Kelsey Block. Photos by RCAH student Samantha Kinjorski.