Some 70,000 people, including many USF students, gathered in Golden Gate Park on a cold, rainy Saturday, Sept. 12, to celebrate diversity and promote peace at the 11th annual Power to the Peaceful concert in Golden Gate Park.
As the sun came out, vendors, non-profit organizations, musical acts and yoga groups all began to gather in the middle of the park at Speedway Meadow to begin celebrating their cause. By noon, USF students packed onto Muni buses, set off on bikes, and laced up tennis shoes for the 2-mile walk to the park. Some of them carried guitars, others wore tie-dye and perched picnic blankets under their arms. Still others brought nothing but passion for peace, justice, and love.
“The mission of our festival is to inspire people to serve,” said Michael Franti, the creator of San Francisco’s annual Power to the Peaceful festival. The festival began 11 years ago when Franti put together a concert as a means to unite pacifists and build an anti-war community. After Sept. 11, 2001, Franti brought a new focus to the festival, using the terrorist attacks as a call for peace, instead of war. Franti mingled with a crowd of thousands, shook hands and took time to answer questions and give out hugs. His music has developed an international following and his passion for peace continues to inspire.
But this is not just Franti’s show. People came to the festival for all sorts of attractions. Lindsey Wreden, a freshman at USF said, “It’s just a great day to enjoy the company of friends and focus on others in a culture that is otherwise so self-centered.” The day started with free yoga classes; people came early to lay out their blankets on the field and claim their space for the concert.
The music varied from reggae musicians like Sly and Robbie to Jamaican singer Cherine Anderson. Vendors selling hemp clothing, handmade jewelry, and political bumper stickers set up booths down the middle aisle of the festival. Food vendors sold everything vegan eats to Indian curry to cookies and ice cream. Non-profit organizations surrounded the stage area, all sending out a similar message: choose compassion over hate.
Around 3 p.m., Alanis Morissette came on stage and the crowd went wild, singing along to every word. She performed for about 45 minutes, chatting with the audience between songs, and thanking everyone for taking the time to support peace. By 4 p.m., Michael Franti took the stage. “Reach out a hand to somebody who needs a hand, and reach out a heart to somebody torn apart,” he sang. Throughout the concert, Franti made pleas for the crowd to take a stand for non-violence, and the crowd responded with cheers and shouts of support. Some fans even broke down in tears. USF freshman Kathleen Quinn said, “It was beautiful seeing such a diverse group of people all working in unity.”