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Break things to promote peace at the Kalamazoo Smash-O-Rama

At the 2011 Smash-O-Rama
Great Lakes Peace Jam

Smash-O-Rama is one of the events taking place this evening during the Kalamazoo Art Hop. It’s presented by Great Lakes Peace Jam as an invitation to “help promote peace by breaking things.” 

Kevin Dodd is program coordinator for Great Lakes Peace Jam.

“You come to the Smash-o-rama, we’re on the loading dock at the Park Trades Center, on Church Street. We will have a smorgasbord of plates and dishes that have been donated to us. All of them have a price on them,” he says, “You pay for the plate. We have safety gear that everyone puts on, so we’ll all be safe. And, we have a big target on the wall that you get to throw your plate at. And, you can come back up as many times as you want.”

Dodd says you can also create a message on your plate before throwing it.

“And, then we added on the layer of writing something in the world that we want to get rid of, like poverty or homelessness or racism. Symbolically breaking those is a way to show our commitment to the cause of dismantling those injustices in the world.”

Dodd says participants in past Smash-O-Ramas have had fun at the event, and even learned from it.

“And what we found in doing these events is that people will come together and it becomes a communal event. Where, sometimes people will write something on their plate and they want to show everyone and say 'Look! I’m going to destroy homelessness!' And they are very excited about it and it starts conversations around what kinds of needs and problems do we see in our community and how can we begin to do something about them so it starts this community conversation.”

Mandy Cox is a master of social work student from Western and an intern at the Great Lakes Peace Jam office in Kalamazoo, helping to coordinate Smash-O-Rama. She wrote the word “bigotry” on a plate and then demonstrated her smashing style outside, using the sidewalk and the side of the building. The plate shattered into many pieces upon impact.

Martha Huckabee, executive director at Great Lakes Peace Jam, says Smash-O-Rama helps raise funds for Peace Jam’s mission, which is to create youth leaders. She describes one of the unique ways they accomplish that goal.

“Linking youth up with Nobel Laureates and showing them as kind of moral exemplars of people who have made the decision to do very simple things that have very great effects on their lives, their community and our world. So we really try to empower youth and show them that anyone can be an agent of change.”

Huckabee says introducing young people to Nobel prize winners can be a valuable learning experience.

“It shows these incredibly powerful individuals, who won these Nobel Peace prizes, but it shows them as normal people. Some of them were illiterate until quite late in their lives. Many of them were very poor. And, they were just normal people, who made a decision one day to change their situation and change the world.”

In case you’re wondering, all the shards of smashed pottery are saved and used in future art projects. Smash-O-Rama runs from 5-9 p.m. Friday.

Lorraine Caron was a reporter and anchor for WMUK, as well as the co-host of Grassroots. She worked at the station from 1991 to 2013.
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