In 1955, husband-and-wife songwriting team Jill Jackson and Sy Miller wrote the song "Let There Be Peace on Earth." The piece has since become a staple at churches, ceremonies and celebrations. Taking a look at the lyrics, they are as applicable now as when they were written.
Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.
Twenty-seven years after those lyrics were penned, a small group of peace-minded individuals gathered at the First Christian Church to begin working toward "the peace that was meant to be." Connie Rogers was one of the peace pioneers who met in the basement of the church at Euclid Avenue and Speedway Boulevard. She recalls the early years of the Tucson Peace Center.
"The Peace Center was founded and established in the early '70s in response to the Vietnam War. (It was dormant for several years) and got reactivated in 1982 in response to the nuclear arms race. It was the time of Iran-Contra, and the Sanctuary Movement was happening in Tucson. A group of people got together around the issues of nuclear disarmament and human rights.
"We ended up taking on two major goals and tasks. One was the annual peace fair. Second was the development and publication of a monthly calendar of events. Over the years, this has continued to be our focus."
Taking a look at the production of the calendar indicates how times have changed. "We first did it as a newsletter run off on a mimeograph machine," recalls Rogers. "We realized the newsletter wasn't it, so we concentrated on a calendar of events. It was mailed out each month with the summers off. Eventually, we went to hand-printing on an 11-inch-by-17-inch page. So we've seen a big change in the format." Today, the calendar is mailed out to members and also viewable online.
While there is no Peace Center building, board members of the Tucson Peace Center have continued to meet throughout the years to plan a peace fair. The 25th annual Peace Fair and Music Festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Reid Park DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center, near 22nd Street and Country Club Road. The event is free and will feature informational display tables, food, children's activities, a raffle and live music by The Wayback Machine, Willow Creek, Bruce Phillips, The Tryst and others. Call 792-6500 for information.
Rogers says the first peace fair was "pretty modest. When we first started, there were about a half-dozen booths. Bruce Phillips was there singing peace and justice songs."
Phillips says he was invited to participate by singer Ted Warmbrand. "Ted called me. He said they were going to do a fair and wanted musicians who wanted to play at the fair. ... I think I took over emceeing at the fourth or fifth one."
Phillips had performed a variety of music from blues to folk in local clubs. He says his activism started during the Vietnam years. "As a teenager, I had an older sister who saw her friends come back from Vietnam changed--or they didn't come back. That got me started. My working toward a peaceful world came out of that era."
Today, Phillips performs children's music at schools and churches. He says the community has become more cohesive in working toward peace.
"Through the Peace Fair and Peace Center, people have met and networked. They found other people of like minds and learned they could work together."
Tucson Peace Fair coordinator Debra Brown has a bird's-eye view of various organizations joining under the Peace Center's umbrella.
"Each year, the fair has grown in attendance and participation of the organizations involved," says Brown. "It is a good trend of people coming together. ... There will be over 100 organizations setting up info booths.
"The fair began (25 years ago) with organizations like Jobs With Justice and Veterans for Peace. Now there are organizations such as the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, the Tucson Centers for Women and Children and the Center for Biological Diversity. It represents a broadening of the movement. The most important thing is to recognize that each organization and each issue that they advocate for is a piece of the bigger puzzle."
Rogers agrees that the peace movement in Tucson has broadened in scope. "It initially started out on issues of peace and justice. In later years, it included environmental issues. Now it includes labor issues.
"The idea of peace these days is that people think it's freedom from war. I think it has a much broader connotation. It has to do with so many other things. (As the song says), it does begin with each of us--trying to understand each other and have a dialogue."