At Strides for Peace‘s Madison Street Community Pop-Up, we were blessed to have community organizations from the south and west sides join to support, provide resources and share love on a block and that has been struggling.

We arrived to the sounds of sirens responding to a nearby shooting and trash strewn all over the street. But by the time we left the street had been swept clean and thanks to Power 92.3 Radio Personality and Pep Rally Take Over founder Rodney “HotRod” Washingtonplaying music from the back of our Peace Mobile, people young and old, community workers and local residents, were dancing. There was joy. And there was peace. 

Later, sorting through photographs from the day, I realized the only other person to play in the Peace Mobile was Yo-Yo Ma. He was scheduled to perform at St. Sabina’s Concert for Peace and people had come from all over the city, lined up with purchased tickets and Sunday clothes, waiting to get in. But before the concert, Yo-Yo graciously performed three pieces to the surprise and delight of those who just happened to pass by. Initially it seemed people weren’t sure what they were witnessing. But as the music washed over them, they stayed, mesmerized and in awe. There was joy. And there was peace. 

At first glance, aside from playing in the Peace Mobile, Yo-Yo Ma and HotRod are worlds apart – different lived experiences, different musical styles, different instruments. But what they offer and embody is simply and powerfully the same – music as an invitation to bring people together, to open a door to each other’s experiences, to bring joy and peace.

And that is at the heart of Strides for Peace’s mission. Change – in a person, on a block, or in a system – is ultimately a human experience that requires trust, hope and love.  And just as the spring sun thaws the frozen ground to loosen the soil just enough to let a sprout raise itself up, the gifts of music – from Yo-Yo Ma to HotRod – open hearts to new possibilities. Happy Spring!

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