July 17, 2019, besides being Peacebuilders campers’ day to focus on the right to freedom of expression, is also notable for another reason. This day is the 29th anniversary of the birth of an extraordinary young man, Mattie Stepanek. On this day, campers learned from Mattie’s example about their own ability to create peace.
Mattie chose to be remembered as a “a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played.” Before he passed away in 2014, Mattie published five New York Times bestselling poetry books. One of the books was co-authored with Jimmy Carter, who calls Mattie “the most remarkable person I have ever known.” Mattie’s philosophy of peace, and each person’s capacity to create peace, continues to inspire today. Today, our campers were among those inspired as Laura Bauer, executive director of Mattie’s foundation, shared his story.
After learning about Mattie, campers were given the opportunity to express themselves creatively. Some campers chose a poetry workshop with Laura, and fashioned their own poetry of peace after one of Mattie’s poems. Their work was gathered into a visual display that will be on exhibit at Georgia Southwest State University’s James Earl Carter library.
Other campers chose to exercise their freedom of expression in another way. They worked with Sulaimon Bamadele, a professional broadcast journalist and founder of Great Dreams Radio. Sulaimon is visually impaired and is originally from Nigeria. Assisted by Kevin Caron, a radio journalist with WRFG radio in Atlanta, Sulaimon guided campers to record radio spots about their home communities, which will be broadcast on Great Dreams Radio. Many thanks to Georgia Southwest State University for the space and equipment to make this experience possible!