Peace Jam comes to Portland thanks to USM student

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Lauren McCallum / Design Director

By Hailey Wood, Staff Writer

Peace Jam is a global movement led by fourteen Nobel Peace laureates that have a Maine group started by USM Junior, Shaman Kirkland. Kirkland attended a Peace Jam summit in Costa Rica where was mentored by two Nobel Peace laureates, Oscar Arias and Jody Williams. “It was me and sixteen other activists around the country and they work with us and talk with us, we had a dialogue and we came up with a plan and formed a national organization,” Kirkland said in a recent interview.

The group aims to create change, promote peace and inspire young people and leaders to do that in a personal communal way. “What separates USM from the other schools is that there are no schools in Portland directly affiliated,” said Kirkland.

Photo by Ian Beckett, Staff Photographer

Peace Jam began in 1996. Until ten months ago, they had one paid employee. Despite this, Peace Jam reached out to over a million young people. “Not just a million young people saw a laureate that was part of this, a million young people were directly involved in our programming around the country,” Kirkland said.

The organization has focuses on gun safety, food security, and human rights protection.

“The club here started this semester as soon as I got here,” Kirkland said. “I went from managing a district attorney campaign and working several various jobs, so now this is my primary focus.” That was two months ago when Kirkland got started.

When Kirkland first heard the name, he was initially confused about its meaning.

“Peace Jam was founded by a musician,” Kirkland explained. “They didn’t want it to be a music thing, they wanted it to be focused on more direct means of change, but now that it’s such a strong organization, we’re bringing in music again,” said Kirkland.

“The idea is we take this wisdom from the laureates and then we share that with students as young as middle school and all the way up to high-school and college.” Kirkland said. Starting involvement early helps them carry what they’ve learned throughout education and throughout life, he added. “Essentially, it’s a big learning/action coalition that we try and make happen.”

Kirkland has been reaching out to people at schools in Portland who have expressed interest in getting involved. “People have been really positive,” he said.

Professor David Everson, faculty advisor of Peace Jam here at USM, was already familiar with the organization after attending a Peace Jam event at Unity College. So when Kirkland reached out to him he knew what he was getting involved with.
As a faculty advisor Emerson’s role is to support Peace Jam as a student-run organization. “So far Shaman’s leadership has been crucial to bringing this exciting opportunity to USM,” said Emerson.

Peace Jam intends to have specific fundraisers, but the way Kirkland likes to think about it is as “community fundraising.” Everyone comes together and helps however they can. “I think the important part of fundraising is that it’s an investment,” he said.

Peace Jam isn’t just about fundraising. “The idea is to promote and inspire leaders,” said Kirkland. “All of the people in Peace Jam exist as leaders for themselves and for everyone else.” As president of the club, Kirkland doesn’t plan on telling people what to do. “I’ll be saying here’s this opportunity, here’s what you can do, would you like to do this with me? But people have complete and total freedom.”

Kirkland said there was a central message that he learned when he went to the summit in Costa Rica. “What I learned is that anybody, all of the people here at the university, have exactly what it takes to be like, amazing. To be leaders,.” said Kirkland.

Peace Jam will be holding an event on April 27 with a guest speaker to be announced in the near future.

Students interested in joining Peace Jam can contact Kirkland by email at [email protected]

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