How Ojai Became an International City of PeaceLet's Celebrate and Build a Culture of Peace
International City of Peace, Ojai, California, USA
by Lisa & Brian Berman
Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek,
but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ojai, California is a community with a long history of peace consciousness. In this sense, Ojai International City of Peace is a continuation of this endeavor. It offers events that inspire and educate the community to build a culture of peace and which honors our one shared humanity and interconnectedness with all forms of life.
Ojai ICP acknowledges specifically the Chumash native people and their indigenous history of the Ojai valley which dates back over 13 thousand years. The local elder and keeper of their history is regularly opening ICP Ojai events with prayers for peace and healing. It is said that the original reason native people came to the Ojai Valley was for ceremony and healing. This tradition continues throughout Ojai’s history, attracting many spiritual teachers and healers to bring greater peace and well being.
How did Ojai become an International City of Peace? In 2013, artist and peace builder Brian Berman created a unifying sculpture he named HOLOS, a design that symbolizes our One Humanity. He envisioned creating cities of peace around the world, uniting all people as one global family. Peace Ambassador Julie Heyman knew of the International Cities of Peace project and together they realized they could unify their vision. A small group of peace builders came together in the fall of 2014 so Ojai could become an International City of Peace. Others joined in, gathered signatures and shared the vision. Ojai became the 99th International City of Peace in November 2014.
The very first ICP Ojai event was titled: Ceremony for Energizing World Peace held on December 7th, 2014, Pearl Harbor Memorial Day. A member of the ICP team was born in Hawaii soon after the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941. Her birth was in one of the hospitals that were taking care of the wounded. This event, 73 years prior impacted her entire life and she felt that a healing ceremony was in order to energize World Peace. This event took place in the front yard of The Gables where the first Peace Pole was installed in Ojai with about 50 people attending. A Chumash elder was invited to offer healing prayers and to bless the intention for the event, Brian Berman was asked to share his HOLOS peace vision for One Humanity, a Shinto Japanese priest performed a healing ritual, and a musician presented his peaceful music. It was a very touching and powerful healing event that showed the importance of healing cultural wounds of the past to bring greater peace in our present lives.
On April 14, 2015, the Mayor and City Council of Ojai presented a city proclamation, declaring Ojai as an International City of Peace. The Mayor read the proclamation and handed the accepted proclamation document to the ICP team, which treasure that the city government officials supports the peace initiatives in the valley. The following three years, the City granted ICP Ojai financial funds to support their events.
The ICP Ojai emphasis of building a culture of peace in all segments of the community is mainly achieved by creating events, which educate and celebrate what living in peace looks like. On July 4th 2015, ICP Ojai participated in the Independence Day Parade and celebrated the community’s diversity by having an interfaith, multi cultural, and multi generational parade float, accompanied with songs of peace and celebrating diversity. Thousands of viewers cheered and acknowledged the ICP status and creativity. The float received a second place award.
The following year 2016, the theme for the parade was “America Sings” and the ICP team created a float with young musicians singing excerpts from the Broadway play “Hamilton.” This was chosen to communicate the greatness that the immigrant Alexander Hamilton contributed to the nation. The message of welcoming and inclusion of immigrants was to bring more awareness that we are greater and stronger together rather than divided. The ICP float received a first place award for their creativity and peace message.
In 2017, Ojai celebrated its centennial, 100 years since the city name “Ojai” was adopted. The ICP theme for the parade was: “Walk for Peace.” ICP Ojai T-shirts were produced for the 60+ walkers and many others joined in during the parade route. These parades are held as an important celebratory part of conscious living together in peace.
In 2018, we repeated the 4th of July ICP theme of “Walk for Peace” and received the first place award for walking groups. We plan to continue our participation in Ojai’s Independence Day Parade, as we celebrate that we can live peacefully together here in Ojai.
Since 2015, each year ICP Ojai hosts the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21st. The focus is to bring community members together for sharing, connection, meditation, prayer, dance, music, art, as well as talks by community members who went through great challenges in life. Participants listened to a child soldier from Lebanon, to a young woman activist imprisoned in Iran, a leader of a motorcycle gang, and many others, all who became peace builders. The skills of listening from the heart were shared to give all attendees a personal experience. Tears of compassion were felt taking these stories to heart, and knowing that wounds from the past can be healed and deeper peace can be found within.
“An enemy is someone whose story we haven’t heard.”
Gene Knudsen Hoffman (Compassionate Listening Pioneer)
Most of ICP Ojai events help educate and inspire the importance of living in a city of peace. The emphasis is on peace begins within, and from there making the life around more peaceful. ICP Ojai has hosted Peacemaker Panel Talks, Peace Essay Readings, Student Peace Artwork, Youth and Adults creating Peace Poles, Peace Photo Contest, Feasts for Peace, and Community Peace Festivals. A website Ojaipeace.net shares and documents ICP Ojai events and also posts on Social Media pages, Ojai International City of Peace and the Ojai Peace Network.
The team also created an International City of Peace road sign, which welcomes visitors to Ojai International City of Peace. Ojai ICP postcards, flyers, posters, and banners also use this design.
Another great addition to Ojai ICP happened on April 10, 2018: the Mayor and City Council approved an initiative that Ojai is a Nuclear-Free Zone. This designation will be added to three welcoming road signs. The initiative stipulates that our city will not invest in any company that contributes funding for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.
Instead of wasting millions of dollars on weapons we dare never use,
the money should be put to more positive ends.
And it’s no use waiting for our leaders to take action,
we the people have to take action to show our disapproval
of these instruments of war and violence.
This is in our interest,
because invariably when things go wrong
it’s ordinary people who suffer.
In early December 2017, the Ojai Valley experienced the largest fire in California’s history with homes and businesses destroyed and damaged. The community rallied to support those who lost their homes and livelihood. ICP leaders Lisa and Brian Berman held open Compassionate Listening Support Circles for those experiencing the trauma of this devastating fire. Support work continues as the community recovers, and new growth from the fire reveals itself. The fire appears as a great metaphor to return to peace even after tragic occurrences.
Ojai International City of Peace will continue to inspire and educate the community to build a culture of peace and which honors our one shared humanity and interconnectedness with all forms of life.
If you want others to be happy,
If you want to be happy,
Ojai, May 2018
Ojai is a community that fosters a culture of peace within, as well as in our homes, schools, businesses, government and all aspects of community life and livelihood. We are dedicated to serving the emergence of personal, ecological, and Universal well being.
To honor a culture of peace based on our one shared humanity and interconnectedness with all life.
To inspire educational programs and services designed to empower individuals and the community in establishing an inclusive, sustainable, and enduring culture of peace.
To foster a community that connects with, knows, and respects its neighbors of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, and beliefs.
To nurture a culture of love and peace in body, mind and spirit.