March 13, 2003
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Local residents Masako Yamano, left, Dimi Reber, Kay Kendall and Ken Simon organized a community ‘Peace Portrait,’ which will be taken Saturday, March 15, 11 a.m., at Gaunt Park.

Creating a picture for peace

Dimi Reber likes the idea of creating a “Peace Portrait” because local residents will use their bodies to express their beliefs. Ken Simon is attracted to the positive energy of being with many people who are smiling together.

“It struck me immediately that there is something upbeat about it, a way to come together,” Simon said.

Reber, Simon, Kay Kendall and Masako Yamano invite community members who favor peaceful solutions to the current Iraqi crisis to join together this Saturday, March 15, at 11 a.m., at Gaunt Park to make a “Peace Portrait.” The photograph, to be taken by Dennie Eagleson, will be made into a postcard to be sent to members of Congress and to family and friends.

At the event organizers will also collect signatures, which will be published in the Yellow Springs News. In case of rain on Saturday, the portrait will take place on Sunday, March 16, at 12:30 p.m. At a later event, participants will gather to sign and send the postcards.

Participants are encouraged to wear bright clothes. Since too many signs could obscure faces, organizers plan to create a statement in large letters to be held up by those in the back row.

The Peace Portrait concept began in Port Townsend, Wash., where that community gathered in October for a photo to protest a U.S.-led war against Iraq, said Kendall, who discovered the idea in Yes journal. In Port Townsend, 800 people, or about 10 percent of the population, took part.

The idea has spread, and the island of Maui recently took its peace portrait, Kendall said, along with several other localities.

Local Peace Portrait organizers feel strongly that waging war on Iraq is not the way to resolve our country’s difficulties with Saddam Hussein.

“I believe war is the most dangerous thing we can do, that it will inflame hatred in many countries, especially in the Arab world,” said Reber. “I think we’re modeling to the world a lack of restraint and a flaunting of international law.”

Growing up in Japan, Yamano observed the destruction caused by World War II, and asked her elders why they had a war.

“People in my mother’s generation said that they didn’t have a choice,” she said. “I decided that if I have a choice, I will say, ‘no war.’ ”

Discouraged about the Bush administration’s talk of war, Reber last fall organized a discussion group about the book Hope’s Edge by Francis Moore Lappe, which examines a variety of progressive grassroots projects around the world.

“The book looks at projects that start small and ripple out,” Reber said. “They aren’t so much a protest against something as people taking a positive action.”

The Peace Portrait organizers all took part in the discussion group, along with several other participants. Talking together helped lessen their feelings of powerlessness about the Iraqi war, said organizers, who have taken other actions as well. Kendall, Simon and Yamano attended protests in Washington, D.C., Reber organized an October rally in Yellow Springs against the war and Simon distributed signs opposing the war to local shop owners, so that those who wished to do so could put a sign in the window.

While they sometimes feel hopeless about the world situation, the organizers said taking action leads to feeling more empowered.

“If I watch too much mainstream news, I feel desolate,” Reber said. “But when I envision something productive or am part of a group of people working together, I feel hopeful.”

—Diane Chiddister