New Orleans youth are crying out for a stop to violence! Our response to this outcry is “The Second Annual Peace is Power Giant Puppet Parade” organized by The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in partnership with The Leona Tate Foundation, O. Perry Walker High School, Be Creative Studios and Skookum Productions. The parade was held on Saturday September 17, 2011 from 5-8pm at Duncan Plaza across from New Orleans City Hall. Around 157 parade participants met at Duncan Plaza and marched for a mile and a half through downtown New Orleans and Canal St.  back to Duncan Plaza.

This year’s parade was filled with lanterns and lights meant to set our nonviolence message ablaze. Sponsoring groups of the parade worked with local community organizations to build 35 puppets of varying sizes to reflect the peace themes of New Orleans youth. The subtheme of this year’s parade was: Celebrating Unity and Diversity in Communities.

Youth groups met at places like, The Desire Change Summer Camp and The Leona Tate Foundation Summer program, starting in June 2011 to build the puppets that were showcased in the parade. During these workshops, youth and community members were asked to express their feelings about peace through the creation of giant puppets like “ the house of light and laughter” which was a giant house where angry puppets went into the house and came out happy, the “world of diversity and love” that lit up and was surrounded by hands of love combating fists of anger and much more. Twelve local organizations marched with their puppets to the music of a  New Orleans brass band and african drummers, as parade onlookers second lined with the passing peace puppets.

Dixie Moore, an art teacher at O. Perry Walker High School, also organized her art classes to build four large puppets representing the African Adinkra symbol for peace meaning “bite not one another.”  We also hosted a youth talent showcase before the parade that included performances from the O. Perry Walker Dance Assemble to earth song by Micheal Jackson to address the state of the environment in New Orleans, Luckylou with a nonviolence rap and dance combination called  “Stomp the Violence” and five other local youth performers with social justice messages.

This parade was created based on the belief that creative arts and social justice work hand in hand in youth peace building work. So in celebration of the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, 2011, we offered a Peace is Power Giant Puppet Parade on Sept. 17th to renew our community pledge to a nonviolent environment for the youth of New Orleans. Local youth joined the community of national social activists in using the age old tradition of theatrical puppet pageantry for community empowerment.