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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Ring of peace, harmony to echo from Shell

September 16, 2010

Overton Park celebration both musical and meditative
Michael Lollar
Memphis Commercial Appeal
September 15, 2010

FreeWorld bandleader Richard Cushing plans to
show up with a sitar. A light show will flicker
for peace, and stickers will be for sale saying,
"Be Happy Now" and "Free Tibet."

Like Woodstock was to rock and folk music,
Overton Park will be to peace and harmony next
week when the Levitt Shell becomes ground zero
for kindling a little calm on the anniversary of
the Dalai Lama's 2009 visit to Memphis.

The Pema Karpo Meditation Center and the Shell
organized the three-day celebration, Tuesday
through Sept. 23, as a way to observe the U.N.'s
International Day of Peace on Tuesday and merge
it with the meditation center's mission to bring
peace a year after the Dalai Lama's welcome with
a fist-bump and the greeting "Hello, Dalai" from
then-Interim Mayor Myron Lowery.

Lowery and then-Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton
declared "Peace and Harmony Days" during the
Sept. 22-23, 2009, visit by the leader in exile
of the Tibetan government. Meditation center
founder Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche came up with the
idea to make the celebration an annual occasion
to ease the spirit of a tumultuous town.

"I want to do something good for Memphis and the
world. As a monastic and Tibetan Buddhist
teacher, my life is dedicated to peace," said the
temple founder whose students call him Khenpo.

Peace and harmony aside, meditation center
director Candia Ludy said the free celebration
will be fun with a wide variety of entertainment
including FreeWorld's eclectic blend of world
music, belly dancers, a salsa group, a classical
guitarist, Orpheum "Star Search" performers and
food concessions. All volunteered their talents.

Ludy said the celebration will be a "festival,"
beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday with a light show
at the Shell. On Sept. 22, participants will be
asked to take part in peace-promoting activities
of their own choice. Sept. 23 will be a "Walk For
Peace" from the Veteran's Plaza around Rainbow
Lake in Overton Park accompanied by Native American drummers.

The opening light show on Tuesday is from
"thousands of computer-operated LED lights that
play in patterns," said Shell executive director Anne Pitts.

Pitts said she expects several thousand
participants during the three-day festival,
especially with word spreading through area
churches. Welcoming speeches are scheduled by
Khenpo, Rabbi Michael Greenstein and Dr. Nabil
Bayakly of AnNoor Muslim Community Center. Two
Christian ministers also have been invited.

Debbie Burch, a festival organizer, said all of
the participants have an underlying belief. "We
believe that peace is possible. I think there is
a widespread misconception out there that peace
is not possible or that it's hard. It's something
you can learn. Memphis is plagued with racial
tensions, serious medical problems, and crime is
very high. ... What we really want to do is let
people know that peace is possible."

Cushing said his band, FreeWorld, donated its
time for a set scheduled at 8 p.m. Tuesday
because, "It seemed like an appropriate thing to
do for World Peace Day. ... I will be bringing my
sitar, which I don't break out too often, and do an improv."

Most music events are scheduled in the evening
with the predawn hours devoted to prayer,
meditation, documentary films and other
low-volume celebrations. "We do not want to get
arrested for disturbing the peace," said Ludy.
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