Downtown open mic and vigil to promote peace

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a ceremony to honor the victims of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks at the Invalides in Paris on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Photo credit: Courtesy of TNS

At 7:30 p.m. today at Heritage Square in downtown Waco, the Waco Poet Society will host a special open mic and vigil titled “People for Peace.” Jenuine Poetess, the society’s founder said the event is being held in response to recent events such as the attacks in Paris and this week’s shooting in California. The event is designed to be a celebration of people from different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs.

“Waco is a diverse city, we need safe spaces where people of all beliefs, races and identities can gather, grieve, process and stand in solidarity with one another,” Poetess said. “The tone is peace building, solidarity and healing. Hate speech of any kind is not a welcome or productive part of the community.”

The event will showcase poetry, songs, reflections, spoken word and prayers. Warm refreshments will also be provided. The event is free to the public.

For others like open mic host and Waco resident, Kiera Collins, the event also provides a strong emotional benefit.

“The purpose is to provide a safe space where individuals can come together and share while receiving comfort and healing. Like one of those bright light in a dark room type of deal,” Collins said. “With everything going on in the world, at home and abroad it seems like there’s a lot of hate and not enough peace and understanding.”

The Mission Statement of Prayer for peace states, “In light of recent events in our own country and around the world, we gather in peace, to speak truth, guided by love, and working toward justice for all people—especially those who are targeted and harmed because of race and/or beliefs.”

Poetess said she hopes the event will bring a positive influence into the community after the recent terrorist attacks around the world.

“There are many responses to the attacks on Beirut, Paris, Nigeria and to the racism taking place on campuses like Yale and Mizzou,” Poetess said. “Many of the responses are born out of fear, hate and ignorance. This ‘People for Peace’ open mic and vigil is intended to add another kind of voice to the chorus of responses one of love, truth, justice and compassion.”

The goal of the event is to provide a safe haven for artists and members of the community to share pleasant and friendly conversations together about the tragedies.

Setting up events like this is no easy feat, but the local communities’ efforts minimized the difficulty, Poetess said.

“It’s a collective effort to create the name, write the copy on the flyer, do outreach, share and invite others, bring supplies, help set up, host the event and set the tone and energy of the space with healing intention,” Poetess said. “This event has been planned quickly because it’s in response to a current event, but we’re able to pull it off with short notice because it is a community effort.