Promoting ‘positive peace’ in the city

When Lisa Parker first saw the 2008 film “The Day After Peace,” in which one of the characters starts a global “Peace Day,” she decided to make some change.

The former Temple student is the founder of Peace Day Philly, a local initiative of the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21. The week-long event, which runs from Sunday to Wednesday, focuses on topics like peace education, community building, meditation and mindfulness, Parker said.

“We are a pro-peace organization,” Parker said, “meaning, we’re about building positive peace.”

When Parker attended Temple from 1983-84 as a psychology major, she utilized the Tuttleman Counseling Center, which helped her to prioritize her wellness.

“If we don’t have personal peace, we can’t spread peace,” Parker said.

She later transferred to Simmons College in Boston, where she graduated with degrees in psychology and human services in 1986.

After working as a social worker for at-risk children and Southeast Asian refugees for seven years, Parker earned her master’s in social service in 1993 from Bryn Mawr College.

In 2011, Parker began the evolution of Peace Day Philly, which started with three “free diverse peace programs” according to the website. Today, it includes more than 30 new programs that coincide with her event, like “Yoga for Peace” and “An Interfaith Peace Dialogue.”

Parker said the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia “were definitely key to launching her effort.” The association helped bring volunteers and gave her the push she needed to get into leadership.

“It was one of the first times in my life that my inspiration was stronger than my fear,” Parker said.

By the end of 2013, Peace Day Philly became a nonprofit organization and established a presence on social media.

On Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, Mayor Jim Kenney will speak.  Temple Professor Emeritus and Philadelphia’s first poet laureate Sonia Sanchez will perform a poem.

“I think the key to Peace Day Philly’s work is we have a broad outreach, meaning we try to engage diverse organizations,” Parker said, “including, education, social service and government.”

Peace Day Philly’s main impact in Philadelphia neighborhoods has been increasing awareness of positive peace.

“Instead of focusing on reducing something negative, we focus on encouraging things that are positive where people can connect to one another,” she said. “We are really happy with the fact that people who would never interact with each other are interacting.”

Parker’s team of advisors, known as “the core team,” are key to helping her with the yearly event.

“Peace Day Philly is important to Philadelphia because it offers people from diverse communities the chance to work together to promote peace in our city, but also within the individual and on the world stage,” said Hugh Taft-Morales, a member of the event’s advisory board.

Parker said “all levels of peace are important.” Peace Day Philly is about personal, local and global peace and the events intend to connect each of these levels.

This year’s Peace Day Philly event will feature a new program called “We Grow Where We Are: Photos, Paintings, and Words by Syrian Refugee Youth” on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in Rittenhouse Square.

The new program is about Syrian refugee children and the experience of living in a refugee camp, Parker said.

All of Peace Day Philly’s events are free, Parker said.

“I never wanted money to be a barrier to things being accessible,” Parker said. “Anyone can be a peace builder, and you can use the global day to either create or engage in activities related to peace.”

London Bogden can be reached at london.bogden@temple.edu.

Emily Scott contributed reporting.

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