By Joel Hall
The Clayton County-based civic organization, Knowledge of the Proactive Enterprise (K.O.P.E.), will once again give young people and others a chance to dialogue with local elected officials about issues facing the community.
The second annual Peace Fest and Symposium will take place at the Virginia Gray Recreation Center in Riverdale this Saturday, Sept. 20, starting at noon. The event will feature various health workshops from 12-3 p.m., with simultaneous youth and adult citizens' forums from 3-5 p.m.
Philip Whatley, CEO of K.O.P.E., said the event gives citizens a chance to express their needs to community leaders in an "unfiltered" setting.
"Quite honestly, there is no platform for everyday people to come and share the same place and space with elected officials and get the information they need to get, that is not sprinkled with any political motives," said Whatley. "That's what Peace Fest provides. It also creates an atmosphere that makes more people want to get involved."
Guests at the last Peace Fest included: Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, Riverdale mayor; Kenny Ruffin; Riverdale city councilman; Jessie Goree, now Clayton County Board of Education District 3 appointee; and Tasha Mosley, now Clayton County solicitor general-elect.
Wynn-Dixon and Ruffin will return to speak this year. Chuck D, from the famous rap group Public Enemy, will be a featured panelist on the youth forum, according to Whatley.
"The 'fest' will be the games and everything that is there," said Whatley. "The symposium is actually the meat. We will talk about some of the issues that Clayton County has been facing over the years."
From 12-3 p.m., visitors will be able to participate in free workshops, including a lecture on holistic health, yoga, and using the gym equipment at the recreation center. There will also be various activities for young children, such as inflatable jumping gyms.
From 3-5 p.m., citizens and elected officials will openly discuss issues which have had an impact on the county, including the loss of accreditation by Clayton County Public Schools. Testimonies will be given by several Clayton County high school students scheduled to graduate in 2009.
Ruffin, who participated in last year's Peace Fest, endorsed the event.
"It's very important to have a cross section of ideas and opinions, so each group can know what the other is thinking," said Ruffin. "A lot of times, when we have an activity, only the panel can speak, but this is open to the audience.
"No matter what age we are, we can learn from each other," Ruffin said. "Some people may have a very academic answer and some people may have a more practical answer, and somewhere between the two is where the best solutions come from."
The Virginia Gray Recreation Center is located at 1475 East Fayetteville Road in Riverdale. For more information, contact Akuba Torvikey at (404) 358-1241, or firstname.lastname@example.org.