Peace Fest was held on April 20 on the UC front lawn. The purpose of the event was to promote the combination of various environmentally focused clubs with those of an activism focus across Lehigh's campus. (Annie Henry/B&W Staff)

Peace Fest uses positivity and collaboration to inspire activism

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Beekeeping Club president Julia Pietruszka, ’20, praised Lehigh’s Peace Fest for its warm and welcoming nature.

She said the event, which was a festival celebrating community activism and diversity, was one of “openness, happiness and an exchange of ideas.”

Held on the UC Front Lawn on April 20, Peace Fest aimed to inspire collaboration between Lehigh’s activism-focused and environmentally conscious clubs, like the Beekeeping Club, the Black Student Union and the Feminist Alliance, in a way that was accessible and engaging to all members of the Lehigh community. Peace Fest was the second annual festival hosted by Green Action.

“Peace Fest is a festival for music and activism designed to create community around intersectional issues,” Green Action president Andrew Goldman, ’19, said. “What we wanted to do with Peace Fest and what we tried to do these last two years was make activism and creating change something that’s fun as opposed to something that’s a chore.”

Goldman said the hardest part about activism-centered events is creating a positive frame of reference.

In an effort to foster an engaging environment, Peace Fest coordinators planned puzzles, smoothies, music, poetry readings and swap stores. Goldman said the atmosphere created at Peace Fest was unlike any other.

“For a couple hours on the front lawn, we created a little ideal community…What really makes Peace Fest influential and what really makes it resonate with people is the sense of community that exists at the event while it’s running,” Goldman said. “In that time when the band is playing and the smoothies are being made, people are swapping their stuff and getting their faces painted, it’s really an amazing sense of community where everyone is friendly and happy and no one is worried about what others are thinking.”

Peace Fest’s atmosphere was largely cultivated by the collaborative nature of the event. Black Student Union president Jamal Connelly, ’19, said being a part of Peace Fest helped expand a sense of communion across campus organizations and fostered a platform for the exchange of ideas.

“Peace Fest is a good way to get different ideas and different views in one space,” Connelly said. “Through collaboration, programming and event planning, we can definitely make this campus a more inclusive place.”

Goldman said the success of Peace Fest resided in each club’s willingness to contribute and cooperate with one another. Without the unified effort from varying groups across campus, the event would lack the community atmosphere experienced by those in attendance.

Pietruszka said the location was another important element of the festival. She said hosting an energetic, welcoming event in a space as central as the front lawn allowed anyone walking by the opportunity to share ideas and celebrate diversity.

“I think the front lawn is a really great space for these kinds of events because it gives people who are trying to bring attention to diverse backgrounds and interests a platform to do so,” Pietruszka said. “All you have to do is come in with an open attitude.”

While Peace Fest fostered engaging energy, the celebration of diversity and activism is an effort Goldman and other organizers want to continue outside of the annual festival. By hosting a communion of ideas and a platform for activism, Goldman thinks Peace Fest has the power to inspire others to create change on campus.

“When people feel that sense of community that exists at Peace Fest, they realize that that’s something that they need to have in their lives,” Goldman said. “After Peace Fest, I think people realize how awesome it is to talk freely and experience no inhibitions and say and do whatever they feel. Then they might try and foster that sense of community and openness with other people in other settings. That’s really what it’s all about: encouraging people to go out and build community.”

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