Students and community members rallied in Ketchikan Saturday as part of an annual event known as “Kings for Peace Week.” It’s a commemoration of both peace on the international stage and community togetherness.
On a sunny Saturday in Ketchikan, a handful of bright-eyed Kayhi Kings are hanging banners and tie-dying cloth masks on the downtown waterfront.
“So these are Tibetan prayer flags,” said Cade McAllister, a senior at Kayhi and the president of the student Rotary Club organization, Rotary Interact. “And what we have to work with are these paper ones that kids from around the community, different schools, have written their messages for peace, so we’ve strung them up all around here.”
He read a few — “‘Peace for everyone starts with kindness to all.’ ‘My wish is equality for all.’ So yeah, lots of positive messages,” he said.
Others said things like “wear your mask,” “be respectful” and “Black Lives Matter.”
McAlister and others were here to celebrate the International Day of Peace — a holiday created by the United Nations in 1981 around the time the UN’s General Assembly convenes for its annual session. It’s now celebrated on Sept. 21, and it’s intended as a 24-hour ceasefire for combatants around the world.
McAllister said it’s also a day to celebrate the broader ideal of peace on Earth. This year’s theme is ‘Shaping Peace Together.’
“I think peace, especially in this community, is when we come out, and we just help each other, and we realize that we’re not so different as human beings,” McAllister said. I think it’s especially important at this time in our country’s history that we realize just how close together we really are.”
Junior Jodee Paule looks at peace a little differently.
“When I think of peace, I think of inner peace,” she said. “Your mindset has to be peaceful, or else or the world around you, you’re going to view it as not so peaceful and almost chaotic.
The celebration this year looks radically different than it did in years past. There’s usually a Peace Day assembly, a Peace Day dance — this year, there’s a Peace Day dance challenge on Instagram. And, of course, never before have students tie-dyed face masks.
Sarah Campbell is the Kayhi teacher who organizes Peace Week. Campbell won a $10,000 award from a national nonprofit recognizing the best teachers across the country this spring — in part because of her work on Kings for Peace Week. She said that this year, she wanted to bring the event outdoors and off campus — and not just for health reasons.
“Our goal this year was to really encourage the community to help think about peace and to help shape peace together,” she said.
Campbell says she hopes the paper and cloth flags from students and community members will be hung in Ketchikan’s schools as an enduring reminder of the power of peace for years to come.