The values of peace and coexistence emblematic of the Woodstock Music Festival live on through the mission of the Georgia Conflict Center, a nonprofit in Athens. And it’s these same values which will be highlighted with the nonprofit’s upcoming event, Harvest of Peace: Woodstock Reimagined, which will be a celebration of music, harmony and the Center’s work with local students.
The event will include live music, storytelling and a Woodstock-inspired costume contest. Performers include Squalle, Seline Haze, Grand and Check the Signs. The stories will include personal accounts of “restorative justice” practices and their impact on the lives of students, teachers and parents in the Athens community, a focus of Georgia Conflict Center’s work.
The theme is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, a three-day music festival which took place on August 15, 1969 in Bethel, New York. Woodstock became an emblem of ’60s counterculture and pacifist values during a time of rampant conflict both at home and overseas with the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement, respectively. Woodstock Music Festival provided a sense of peace and unity, popularizing the mantra “make love, not war,” during an otherwise tumultuous point in history, according to History.com.
Today, the Georgia Conflict Center hopes to reinstate the Woodstock values of peace and unity at its Harvest of Peace, said executive director John Lash. The Georgia Conflict Center aims to appease conflict in spaces such as schools, churches, prisons, relationships and businesses, according to its website.
“Woodstock and the era of the ’60s really focused on peace, so we thought it made sense to align ourselves with that,” Lash said. “We wanted to connect that with music that's current to our time and our city.”
The Georgia Conflict Center addresses conflict and violence through the implementation of what it refers to as “restorative justice.” These practices empower people to solve conflicts by bringing them together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions and air their grievances, according to the nonprofit’s website.
In previous years, the fundraiser manifested in the form of a silent auction. This year the Georgia Center of Conflict wanted to place a larger emphasis on the “full-school restorative process” programs in four Clarke County schools: Cedar Shoals High School, Clarke Central High School, Whit Davis Elementary School and Clarke Middle School, according to Lash.
“The restorative process is another way of approaching behavior in school,” Lash said. “It gives us a chance to sit down with the students involved in a particular situation and collaborate on what a solution looks like. The idea is that if you normalize dialogue, as a way of addressing problems and conflicts, then students are more able to use those skills.”
The restorative process doesn’t work to just fix problems, but restore relationships, Lash said.
Danny Malec manages the school-based restorative practice work, dividing his time between the four schools. Malec will be a storyteller at the Harvest of Peace and will discuss his success with the use of the “circle practice,” a method of democratizing dialogue and problem-solving during an in-school conflict. Students, teachers and occasionally event parents will be invited to sit in a circle and encouraged to talk about a situation.
“The circle creates a container where we can bring forward any emotions,” Malec said. “We can work together to fix it. That's happening on a daily basis.”
Torrance Wilcher, who performs as local rapper Squalle, works with students in the Clarke County school district and through coaching step teams at Hilsman Middle School and Cedar Shoals High School.
“Most of what I do with the kids is music-driven,” Wilcher said. “Kids really like music. They gravitate to a lot, so that’s where I put a lot of my information and how I express myself to them.”