Ceremony attendees and passersby watch lanterns float along Lake Merritt near sunset.

Oakland Asian Cultural Center hosts the inaugural Peace Lantern Ceremony

on October 19, 2018

On Sunday, September 23, dozens of people gathered at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater for the first annual Peace Lantern Ceremony. The Oakland Asian Cultural Center, or OACC, hosted the event.

The non-profit’s organizers aim to foster intergenerational dialogue and collaboration through Asian and Pacific Islander arts and cultural programming that they host.

The ceremony fell on the Sunday between the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a day historically used as a ceasefire within combat zones and celebrated on September 21, and the Mid-Autumn Festival, a harvest festival celebrated on September 24 in several Asian countries including China and Vietnam.

OACC event organizer Pam Mei Harrison said she hoped the ceremony would serve as an opportunity for participants to reflect on a shared humanity, and the importance of the arts in building resilience, hope, and strength in working towards peace.

“We want to think about peace as an absence of violence and an absence of war, but also as a state where we’re not having so many preventable deaths,” said Harrison, referring to global factors like climate change. She said she hoped participants would reflect on how we can ensure “we’re living in a way that recognizes the interconnectedness of life and the value of life.”

For event organizers, that included featuring performances by local dance and drumming groups like the Intertribal Friendship House All Nations Drum & Youth Dancers, Tacuma King and Sun Drummers of United Africa Ensemble, and Emeryville Taiko. It also included offering participants a space to learn about voting and other methods of civic engagement through tabling from members of groups like the League of Women Voters, FairVote CA, and The Women’s March Oakland. The event was funded through a grant from the Asian Pacific Fund.

Near sunset, attendees decorated lanterns that they floated on Lake Merritt. The lanterns were inspired by the Bay Area Japanese Lantern Ceremony for Peace, in which floating lanterns are used every year to remember the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Harrison said event organizers hope this will become an annual opportunity to celebrate, feel engaged, and reflect on how to cultivate peace.

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