The Peace House hosted its annual Peace Festival 10-4 p.m. Nov. 12. in the “Hall of Mirrors” at the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City. Several OCU students attended to become informed about local issues, listen to local musicians, and eat vegan and vegetarian-friendly foods.
There were 62 tables set up at the festival, each showcasing the different social and environmental nonprofits that the Peace House represents.
Nathaniel Batchelder, OCU alum, directs the Peace House. Batchelder graduated in 1972 with a degree in Biology and has been working at the Peace House since 1990. Batchelder mainly focuses on issues involving environmentalism, civil rights, women’s rights and LGBT rights.
“We feel as though the Peace Festival is really giving all of these groups a chance to have some visibility and get some publicity,” Batchelder said.
The Peace House hosts its festival every year on the second Saturday of November. This was their 35th year to host the event.
Nathaniel Batchelder served as a surgical technician in the US Army before he was honorably discharged and joined his parents in Oklahoma City and attended OCU. Batchelder began volunteering with the Sisters of Benedict at the Benedictine Peace House in 1985 and found his calling of working for social justice.
Of the 62 nonprofits showcased at the festival, three organizations promoted environmental sustainability work, and two focused on selling fair trade and international homemade goods. Local businesses sold pottery from Central America, carvings from Africa, fabrics from Guatemala, and jewelry and trinkets from all around the world.
Vendors also sold books, calendars, crafts, homemade candles and soaps, organic coffee, bumper stickers, and buttons.
The Oklahoma Vegetarian Society distributed homemade zucchini bread to visitors.
Other organizations present include the following –
Other organizations present include the following –
- The School of Metaphysics
- The Solutions Project (a movement to make Oklahoma more reliant on wind, water and solar energy)
- The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma
- The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
- Life Anew, Inside and Out (an organization designed to help people readjust to life after prison)
- Tallgrass Foster Care
- Rose Rock to Standing Rock (an Oklahoma-based support group for the Standing Rock protectors in North Dakota)
- Northcare (an LGBT young adult support group)
- The Abolitionist Vegan Society
- American Civil Liberties Union
- The Mennonite Central Committee
- Amnesty International
- Fertile Ground (a local composition group)
- Closer to Earth (a movement to get young people involved in climate change activism through community service)
When the Peace House isn’t working on organizing the Peace Festival, they are networking with Civil Rights groups in the area like Black Lives Matter, NAACP, and the movement against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (NoDAPL).
During the day of the festival, Batchelder wore a “Water is Life” shirt in support of NoDAPL.
There are many opportunities for students to get involved with these organizations if they are interested in social change, Batchelder said.
He recommends that students become involved in local movements by volunteering or interning with some of the organizations listed on the Peace House website at http://peacehouseok.org/ under the “links” tab.
“People are wondering what they can do,” Batchelder said. “The answer is people should bleed out of their hearts. What issue is it for you? Work on that.”
Environmentalism is an important issue to Batchelder, and he spoke in length about the issues of Carbon Dioxide emission, the EPA’s war on coal, global warming, and the Keystone Pipeline.
“We’re talking about the only earth that we will ever know, the only earth we have ever known,” Batchelder said. “The age that we live in now is the age in which pollution is changing everything about nature, and that will result in a decimation of species and ultimately human society.”
On the Peace House website, there is also an “advocacy” tab, which includes a list of the contact information of all of Oklahoma’s elected officials.
Batchelder said he encourages students to contact their state representatives about issues like education and economic decisions.
“We need to tell our state legislators that public education needs to be funded,” Batchelder said. “I think what they’ve done is criminal, and I think it’s an abomination.”
State representatives are claiming our state doesn’t have enough money to fund education because the price of oil has gone up, and much of our state’s income comes from oil companies, Batchelder said. The price of oil is currently $49.44, according to macrotrends.net.
“Six years ago, oil was worth more than $100 a barrel in the international market, so there was a lot of money, and the state legislature was cutting the funding for education even then,” Batchelder said.
Batchelder encourages young people to participate in conversations and educate themselves on the issues that are important to them.
“There is no justice without the political discussion,” he said.
One way to get involved, Batchelder said, is to vote, not only for the presidential elections, but also for local elections.
“Voting is the least you could do,” he said. “It’s just once every two years, and it takes an hour. Are you willing to give an hour once every two years?
Batchelder said that, because many people don’t vote, one person’s vote means that much more.
“If you’re voting, you’re voting for four people, so your vote really counts,” he said.
Batchelder said that, in the wake of the recent Presidential election, it’s important for people to be focused on positive social change, which is the purpose of the Peace Festival.
Donations can be made to the Peace House at http://peacehouseok.org/donate/
Students can also sign up for email updates and recommend local businesses to participate in the Peace Festival.
The Peace House publishes a 12 page newspaper called “Oklahoma Peace Strategy News” six times a year, focusing on different social justice-oriented events in Oklahoma City.
Past issues focus on transgender rights, US relations with Saudi Arabia and voting rights. These past issues can be found online at http://peacehouseok.org/outreach/oklahoma-peace-strategy/.
Subscriptions to the paper are free, but the Peace House encourages donations. Students can subscribe to receive the paper by mail or email.
For more information, students can call the Peace House at 405-524-5577.
Ken Williams, chemistry senior, participated in the Peace Festival by handing out flyers for the Urban Community Garden. Most students would recognize Williams as the baseball player who passes around his “idea board,” which is usually a cardboard box with students’ random thoughts written in permanent marker.
The Urban Community garden works from what Williams called a “shoestring budget,” so Williams offered to print off flyers with his extra print subsidy.
He said he enjoyed the festival because it helped people learn about different issues that are not normally discussed. Like Batchelder, Williams is mainly concerned with environmentalism and said he was pleased to see how many organizations were present that discussed climate change.
“This is important,” Williams said. “No one talks about it because they feel like it doesn’t affect their individual lives, but, really, climate change affects all of us.”
Williams said he encourages students to become informed on issues involving climate change and listen to what the scientific community has to say.
“We act like we don’t know what’s going on, and we can keep going about our business the way we have been,” Williams said. “It doesn’t work that way. There’s a resistance to change.”
Williams recently started a repurposing club on campus, which creates more opportunities for recycling and composting.
“It’s pathetic that we don’t do it here,” he said. “I’m from Seattle, and, over there, you get 10% of your trash recycled. Why would you just send that to a landfill? That’s energy that you’re wasting.”
The club’s members are currently in the process of promoting a Senate bill that would allow more recycling bins in United Methodist Hall, Williams said.
“We’re hoping to just get people recycling and reduce our school’s carbon footprint,” he said.
Williams said he is hopeful that students will take the opportunity to recycle once the resources are available.
“All of this just takes a little bit of student initiative,” he said. “Once we start it, people will have the effort to sustain it.”
Mark Davies (pictured above), Director of the World House Scholars program, is hosting the December gathering of the Human Community Network 1-4 p.m. Dec. 10 in Walker Center Room 151.
According to the Human Community Network website, the purpose of the organization is to “create systemic change for a flourishing human community through education, innovation, and action.”