Unity Through Creativity Foundation and the Interfaith Alliance of the Southwest hosted a celebration of the International Day of Peace Keystone Heritage Park and Botanical Garden on Sept. 21st, 2022. It was attended by 120 people. This event was part of over 4500 celebrations of the 40th anniversary of this international holiday.
The Unity Through Creativity (UTC) Foundation is a visual arts organization dedicated to bringing connection, compassion, and creativity to address discord in community. The Singing Tree™ Mural Project is UTC’s flagship program, with over 110 murals completed over the last 20 years.
The Interfaith Alliance of the Southwest is part of the nationwide Interfaith Alliance. The Interfaith Alliance seeks to offer opportunities to promote mutual understanding and respect through education and dialogue. They are celebrating their tenth anniversary on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 23rd.
Grandma Bea Villegas and Maria Cadillo hold the opening ceremony. Photo by Patricia Delgado
The International Day of Peace featured nine speakers and performers and 18 vendors. Television and radio broadcaster Monica Gomez emceed. Grandma Beatriz Villegas gave the ceremonial opening to the day. The speakers included:
• Neema Soratgar, a guest Scholar in Women Studies at University of Texas in El Paso, spoke about her experience narrowly escaping with her children from Afghanistan in 2021. She was the first woman to drive in Afghanistan in 2001 when the Taliban first fell and carried the Afghanistan flag in the Olympics in 2004.
• The Rev. Michael Grady spoke about "Ending Racism, Building Peace" and the recovery of his daughter from the Walmart massacre in August, 2019.
• Jacklyn Correan, 16, of Loretto High School, won the essay contest sponsored by Unity Through Creativity and the Interfaith Alliance. She read her essay, "One Must Work AtIt", about Eleanor Roosevelt's writing of the Declaration of Human Rights.
• Bettina Escudero led a guided meditation, accompanied by the cello playing of ProMusica.
• Laurie Marshall, the founder of Unity Through Creativity and the Singing Tree Mural Project, spoke about the neurobiology of creating peace.
• Fernanda Lugo led the attendees in Yoga throughout the day.
• Young Tigua men shared the Eagle dance, and the Grupo Folklorico Valle del Sol invited everyone to join in the dancing.
• The day closed with songs of Anna Maria Rosales, a native of El Paso whose works have been featured on Grey's Anatomy.
Nectarine Singing Tree Mural of Peace in process. Photo by Laurie Marshall
Other presenters and vendors included Rainbow Borderland; Pax Christi; the Veterans’ Administration Care Giver Support;Annunciation House; Abara Frontera; Quakers of El Paso;The League of Women Voters; Dialogue Institute Southwest; Volar (serving those who are differently-abled), and the St. Columban Mission for Justice, Peace and Ecology, who sold handbags embroidered by women trapped in Juarez; the Desert Bloom Healing Collective; and artist Pamela Vigo Sanchez.
Raindrop Turkish House contributed meals to all the vendors and offered Turkish savory and sweet food to the public.
Participants expressed surprise at the number of peacebuilding organizations that are working in the El Paso area. Takeaways included:
• There are many amazing, interconnected organizations in El Paso working towards Peace.
People who attended commented,: “I loved meeting many positive, committed, serious and fun-loving people.” “ It gives me hopefulness for peace in this city and in the world.”
“I need to become aware of my local charities and pick some to be active in.””All different communities came together for good and to make a difference..”
Women trapped in Juarez make handbags sold by St. Columban Mission.
The attendees identified these issues now confronting El Paso that can be addressed through the peacebuilding effort of Unity Through Creativity, the Interfaith Alliance, and the other many peacebuilding organizations in and around El Paso:
• Racism and prejudice
• Food deserts (areas devoid of groceries stores)
• Housing instability
• Environmental degradation
• Distribution of wealth and opportunity
• Gender equity
The public can add their voice and vision to the Nectarine Singing Tree of Peace at this free,
fun family event on Sunday, Oct. 23rd, 3:00 – 5:00 pm at Keystone Heritage Park.