The evolution of music festivals from 1967 to How Weird 2017

People have been gathering to enjoy music and dancing for as long as there have been humans. Festivals of all sorts occur around the world. All these gatherings used to be tied to religious events or political events, or time-based events like the solstice. The idea of a festival of art and music for its own sake is a new invention. The seeds of which were the many different countercultural gatherings of the early to mid-1960s.

The first major gathering to bring many of those groups into a cohesive whole was the Trips Festival on January 21–23, 1966. It was the biggest of all the Acid Tests, a three day extravaganza at the Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco. Diverse groups of people came to check it out, curious to find out what all the technicolor hype was about.

Trips Festival 1966

Trips Festival 1966 - Ken Babbs at controls
The Trips Festival main stage, Merry Prankster Ken Babbs speaking with effects.

Later that year, an experimental gathering called the Love Pageant Rally took place in San Francisco. It was organized as a freeform protest and performance art happening. It was at that event, on October 6, 1966, that the concept of a Human Be-In was formed. It was envisioned by Michael Bowen and Alan Cohen as a way to bring all the different tribes of countercultures together. They wanted to use the event to raise people’s consciousness, and spread waves of peace and love around the world at a time when it was much needed.

Love Pageant Rally 1966
Invitation to the Love Pageant Rally.

The Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In took place on January 14, 1967 in Golden Gate Park of San Francisco. The event did bring all the tribes together, to enjoy each other’s company and soak in the music, art, talks, and prayers that happened that day. So many people came, that it created a sense of destiny being fulfilled. The Human Be-In was the prototype of the modern music festival that we enjoy today. Before that, groups of rock bands had never performed together outdoors in a festival environment. It was also the beginning of the fabled Summer of Love, the first “festival season” of modern times.

Human Be In - 1967

Human Be In - 1967 Aquarian Goddess
The Human Be-In on January 14, 1967

Soon there were Be-In’s in every major city, joined by Love-In’s and weekend concerts, all growing in popularity. On June 3-4, 1967, the KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival at the Mount Tamalpais Amphitheatre molded the concept into more of the shape we know today. It featured a full line-up of psychedelic rock bands, blues artists, and performers, and it called itself a “music festival”. The cultural phenomenon was refined further two weeks later at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 16–18, 1967. Here the festival structure was exposed to a mainstream audience, and they loved it. The entire summer of 1967 was filled with many festivals, gatherings, concerts, and happenings. These would continue year after year, reaching a peak at Woodstock in 1969. The idea of a festival season spread rapidly, and by 1970 there were music festivals everywhere. They have continued to evolve ever since.

Fantasy Fair and Monterey Pop
The posters for the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival and the Monterey International Pop Festival.
KFRC Fantasy Fair 1967 crowd
The crowd at the Fantasy Fair.

Then the next generation came of age, and embraced a new form of music and art made possible by digital tools. The evolution of electronic dance music led to a creative blossoming in 1988-1989 called the Second Summer of Love. It was then that the seeds of a music festival for electronic music were formed, inspired by the beach parties of Ibiza and Goa. They called these gatherings raves, and lived by a motto that was the same as in 1967… peace, love, unity, and respect. This new generation of music festivals took their form from the many rock and art festivals that had preceded them, combined with the rich history of tribal cultures and traditional music and dance. The new culture spread rapidly, filling every corner of the planet, becoming the most widespread culture ever known.

As it grew, electronic dance music culture diversified and branched into different genres, becoming specialized tribes with similar cultures. It was one of these genres, psytrance music, that took root in San Francisco and embraced the inspirational history of experimental psychedelic culture. Beginning with a group called the Consortium of Collective Consciousness, some truly transformational gatherings were created. From this tribe, came the How Weird Street Faire. The faire was envisioned as a way to bring all the different tribes of electronic dance music together, and allow them to experience each others cultures, and basically become one big diverse family. It was a way of creating peace within our own community, and being an inspiration to others.

Now, 18 years later, the How Weird Street Faire has become the official start to San Francisco’s famous festival season. The faire is the modern equivalent to the Human Be-In, representing the next generation of experimental gatherings. How Weird fuses many types of events together to make a unique blend. There are elements of electronic music festivals and rock festivals, art festivals and craft festivals, circuses and performances, Burning Man and regional events, clubs and raves, cultural and neighborhood street fairs, peace and activist activities, parades and protests, community events and spiritual services, and just plain weirdness. Combined they represent all the different countercultures of today. How Weird brings them together for one day, to celebrate our similarities and appreciate our differences. And the public is invited to join in the experience. By doing so, we are contributing to the connection and expansion of consciousness, and the evolution of humanity. Join us as we take gatherings, and ourselves, further. We still have a ways to go.

The How Weird Street Faire

Spiral HWSF

What is the How Weird Street Faire?


The How Weird Street Faire is a project of the educational non-profit World Peace Through Technology Organization. The faire, like the non-profit, aims to inspire peace through music, art, ideas, raising consciousness, and the benevolent uses of technology. The faire is a musical and visual sensorium, a term used by Chet Helms to describe the Family Dog venue located in the former dance club of Playland at the Beach. The faire is also a paxorium, or place of peace, filled with thousands of people accepting and appreciating each other, connecting with each other, and forming one glorious community.

The faire and non-profit grew out of a community of artists called the Consortium of Collective Consciousness or CCC, which was formed 20 years ago. They were part of a larger movement that had spread around the planet. This new type of music and culture was made available by the use of extremely powerful new tools, especially the computer and internet. Suddenly, a whole unexplored world of possiblities opened up, limited only by one’s imagination. This global dance culture started in the industrial cities of America and Europe, and then blossomed in India before settling in San Francisco, where it merged with the area’s legendary alternative cultures, and created some truly amazing experiences. Throughout the years, and many changes, the How Weird Street Faire has maintained this cultural spark, focused on bringing people to a greater level of understanding and connection, and ultimately peace.

The Consortium of Collective Consciousness used advanced sound and light technology, inspired music and art, and active dancing to facilitate transcendent experiences which deeply affected the participants, and brought a greater awareness of themselves and the universe. In addition to the profound individual effects, the synchronized dancing brought the entire group to an even more elevated state of consciousness. This is similar to the experience had by people in cultures around the world for thousands of years. Only now, it was made far more potent through the available tools and global scale of the new culture.

Inspired by what was happening, and seeing it’s potential to bring peace to the world, a non-profit was created called “World Peace Through Technology” to explore the potential for connections and understanding through music and art, and find ways to inspire and create peace using technological tools and cultural gatherings. The CCC events had become too crowded, forcing the participants to be more and more limited. The new non-profit decided to create an event in the middle of the street in order to bring the transformative experiences out to public, and invite everyone to participate. A street faire was born on Howard Street, on the block outside of the CCC warehouse and World Peace Through Technology non-profit office. The same energy and experience that had been taking place indoors had now spilled out into the streets, without losing it’s intensity, and the rest is history.

HWSF peace prayer
The ending of the first How Weird Street Faire in 2000.
Everyone came together to hold hands and say a prayer for peace.

For the first two years, the faire was a direct extension of the CCC community. This enabled the faire to grow, and attracted a wide variety of interesting people from all over the world. In 2001, the space that housed the CCC community was lost due to rising costs. The community became decentralized, and soon the events stopped. But the faire kept going, serving as a reunion of the CCC, and a gathering of more and more communities. As the faire expanded in size, both in attendance and physical space, more sound stages were added to the two original stages that were produced by the CCC. How Weird welcomed other dance music communities to join the celebration of peace, seeking to bring all the different tribes of dance music together and form one interconnected community. How Weird gives people a chance to learn about what the diverse dance music groups are doing, and get a taste of some of the world’s most vibrant culture and expression.

The How Weird Street Faire has been an experiment on how to create a peace event, one that allows “opposing” sides to find common ground and similarities, and to share in experiences that can lead to bonding and mutual understanding. We identified the essential elements of the Consortium of Collective Consciousness experience, including cutting-edge electronic music, synchronized group dance, inspiring visionary art, a collective expansion of consciousness, a very diverse group of people, an open mind, and a lot of fun. Then we applied them on a large scale in a public venue with amazing results. We found that those elements are the ideal ingredients to a peace event.

The need for creating peace has only grown in the years since we started the faire. We want to share what we have learned, and open source the elements of a peace event, in the hope that more of these events can help bring peace to the world.

We encourage all people to make their own peace events. We need gatherings that can bring different people together. Please let us know what you learn and what elements you find to be useful for bridging divides and connecting people. As the Dalai Lama explained, one of the best things that people can do to bring peace is to hold festivals with music and art that bring people together.

ILC hosts VR Expo and Science Faire

Virtual Reality Expo and Science Faire

The Immersive Learning Center held a VR Expo and Science Faire in Vallejo, CA today.

Students and their families came to see new technologies used to create and view virtual worlds. The ILC opened its doors to the community of Vallejo, and showed that education can be fun and inspiring.

Immersive Learning Center - Virtual Reality Expo

The ILC has become a successful STEAM educational center in the heart of what was a decaying downtown only a couple years ago. The ILC utilizes peace education in much of what they do, focusing on collaborations and providing opportunities to meet and learn from people around the world virtually. The Immersive Learning Center is a project of the World Peace Through Technology Organization.


Spring Mobilization to End the War in 1967

Peace rally - Kezar April 15, 1967

April 15 peace rally

On April 15, 1967, the largest peace demonstration in American history up to that point was held to protest the Vietnam War. It was called the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam. There were around 100,000 people in San Francisco, and over 125,000 people in New York City. In SF, they marched from Second Street and Market (just a block from where the How Weird Street Faire takes place) to Kezar Stadium at the edge of Golden Gate Park. In New York, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the walk from Central Park to the United Nations building.

The Spring Mobilization marked the emergence of a new era of peace protests, creating a national coalition of anti-war activists. The Mobilization followed a week of anti-war activities on college campuses across the United States. By the spring of 1967, more than 365,000 US troops had been sent to Vietnam, and the number of casualties had risen to more than 6,600. There was a sharp increase in public interest and scrutiny of the war, which by 1967 had affected most people’s lives either directly or indirectly.

SF peace rally - April, 1967

1967 Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam
April 15, 1967, San Francisco, CA. The march turned up Fulton Stree and continued to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park.

In San Francisco, Kezar Stadium was packed with a diverse crowd of protesters. Music was provided by Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Judy Collins. The speakers included Coretta Scott King (wife of Martin Luther King Jr.), Eldridge Cleaver, Morris Evenson, Rabbi Abraham Feinberg, Julian Bond, and Robert Vaughn (from the hit TV show “Man From Uncle”). Vietnam veteran David Duncan gave the keynote speech.

April 15, 1967 - Mobilization Against War poster

1967 Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam

1967 Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam
April 15, 1967, San Francisco, CA. Arriving at Kezar, the protesters FILLED UP the entire Stadium.

The growing anti-war movement was credited for eventually ending the war. Abbie Hoffman later said “The lesson of the sixties is that people who cared enough to do right could change history.”

SF poster Clean-In 1967 Spring Mobilization

On April 15th, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood held a Clean-In to prepare the area for the influx of people expected after the march and rally. Streets were sweeped, windows were washed, and trash was removed. The march itself passed near the Haight on Fulton Street, before heading south along Golden Gate Park.

SF poster - April 15, 1967 Peace Poets Dance

There were many concerts held in support of the peace protest, including a free concert by Country Joe and the Fish in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park on April 14th, and a Peace Poets Dance the day before that. The merging of the creative countercultures and the political countercultures was on full display in San Francisco on April 15, 1967.

April 15 peace rally - Kezar

Confronted with the fierce urgency of Now

Martin Luther King speech - Beyond Vietnam

Fifty years ago, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech called “Beyond Vietnam” which tied the civil rights movement to the growing peace movement. On April 4, 1967, King delivered a harsh critique of the Vietnam War at the Riverside Church in New York City. He rallied against the hypocrisy of standing up for the poor and oppressed in America, while America goes to war against the poor around the world.

He received a lot of criticism for that speech, but King realized that there can be no true civil rights until there is peace. King anticipated the reaction, and understood the risks. In the speech he mentions those who did not want to discuss peace, who said “peace and civil rights don’t mix”. His response was, “They do not know the world in which they live.”

In the speech, King called for a “true revolution of values” that would lead to a life of love, and a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood”.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed exactly one year after this speech. He explained soon before that “only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”

April 4 1967 - Martin Luther King

Here are some excerpts from the speech “Beyond Vietnam”…

It is with such activity that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin, we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors.

If we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Peace Revolution

How Weird celebrates 50 years of inspirational counterculture

Summer of Weird

On May 7, 2017, a unique gathering of the tribes will occur in downtown San Francisco for a Celebration of Peace. It will be the 18th How Weird Street Faire, the World Peace Through Technology Organization’s annual peace event. Tens of thousands of people will fill the streets, dancing at the eleven stages of world-class electronic music, enjoying spectacular performances, partaking in fantastic foods, visiting unique vendors, experiencing visionary art, inspired by awesome creativity, and learning at peace technology exhibits.

The How Weird Street Faire will take place from Noon to 8pm. The faire is centered at Howard and 2nd Streets in San Francisco, the heart of the art and technology centers of the city. The theme for 2017 is “Summer of Weird”, paying tribute to the cultural pioneers that inspired us and paved the way forward. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, a time of great change, and an explosion of creative culture here in San Francisco. Love and peace were celebrated then, as now. How Weird brings people together in unity, to generate waves of joy and expand our consciousness. Costumes and an open mind are encouraged. Leave your fear behind.

The SF Oracle proclaimed in 1967, “A new concept of celebrations must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.” Our need for love is growing again as today’s youth attempt to find solutions to the greed, corruption, hatred, violence, and separatism around us.

The Human Be-In on January 14, 1967 became the template for a new type of conscious event, inspiring the evolution of music and art festivals, beginning with the Summer of Love and leading directly to the How Weird Street Faire. How Weird is proud to continue the great San Francisco tradition of taking culture further.

The conservative British newspaper Financial Times, in an August 12, 2016 article titled “Were the Hippies Right?”, wrote, “Was it mere coincidence that the centre of hippie culture became, a couple of decades later, one of the world’s wellsprings of technological innovation? Did Haight-Ashbury inexorably lead to Silicon Valley? The epochal social changes of that era inspired a range of cultural initiatives that led, in various shapes and forms, to the world in which we live today. There is a bond between the creative spirit of San Francisco in the late 1960s, and that of today.” Steve Jobs once observed the reason for this innovation, “What is not normal is normal here.” How Weird is the modern epicenter for all things not normal in San Francisco.

The How Weird Street Faire is a project of the nonprofit World Peace Through Technology Organization, showing the world that peace is possible. After half a century, peace is needed more than ever.

For more info visit

Flower Power

The Immersive Learning Center

Immersive Learning Center
Immersive Learning Center, or ILC, is a new project of the World Peace Through Technology Organization.

The Immersive Learning Center is an after school and weekend educational facility in the heart of downtown Vallejo, CA, currently serving over 100 youth from grades K-8, and beginning to serve high school students as well. It is available to the most under served students in California.

The students learn valuable skills in technology and cutting-edge immersive tools. Through games and programming and media creation, the students increase their opportunities and broaden their awareness in a fun environment. The ILC has partnered with the City of Vallejo to help make STEAM education available to all.

ILC students learning

Human Libraries educate us about each other

The Human Library is a new way of challenging prejudices through conversation. Human Libraries are an international movement that use social contact to break down barriers and discrimination. They use the language and mechanism of a library to facilitate respectful interactions that can positively change people’s attitudes and behaviors towards members of communities who are at risk of exclusion and marginalization. The Human Library is where difficult questions are expected, appreciated, and answered. In spite of all the violence and conflict taking place in the world today, the Human Library is a simple way for people from all different demographics to sit down together and have an open exchange of ideas and perspectives.

Human Libraries

Just like in a real library, a visitor to a Human Library can choose a Book from a range of titles. The difference is that the “Books” are people, and instead of reading there is a conversation. Social contact is known to be among the best ways to challenge prejudice, and the Human Library enables it to flourish. The Human Library provides a safe environment for people to engage in conversation within a framework of respect, and with permission to respectfully ask questions and share experiences. The dialogue that the Human Library facilitates has the potential to challenge prejudice, stigma, and discrimination. Some of the popular Book titles are Muslim, Refugee, Gay, Transgender, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Young Black Male, Handicapped, Blind, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Downs Syndrome, Recovering Alcoholic, Teenage Mother, Substance Abuser, Unemployed, Autistic, Learning Disability, Facial Disfigurement, Obese, and Homeless.

In practice, the Human Library celebrates the diversity of our communities, raises awareness of many different reasons people may experience exclusion, and takes positive action to address some of the issues that can lead to bullying, abuse, and hate crime. Book titles deliberately acknowledge and provoke the assumptions and common prejudices that we, or society, may have. Readers are empowered to choose from a broad range of titles, and challenged to engage with the people behind the labels. The experience generates instant appeal and is a practical way to engage the public with big issues such as equality, diversity, and human rights. The Human Library is easy to organize because it not expensive to produce. The biggest ressources needed to facilitate a Human Library are time and volunteers, which has made it possible to stage events in a wide range of countries, including Denmark, Romania, Iceland, Poland, Italy, Holland, Slovenia, Belgium, Portugal, Israel, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Human Library checkout table

The first Human Library was created for the 2000 Roskilde Music Festival by a group of Danish activists who formed in response to a violent hate crime. Their idea was to use the language and mechanism of a library to facilitate conversations that challenge prejudice, thereby reducing the risk of tension and violence. In 2008, the Human Library Organization was formed in Copenhagen. From there, the creators and founders of the Human Library Organization have helped the movement to grow steadily across the world. It is currently active in over 70 countries.

The story of the Human Library really begins in 1993, when five teenagers – Ronni Abergel, Erich Kristoffersen, Asma Mouna, Thomas Bertelsen, and Dany Abergel – created a Youth NGO called Stop The Violence. Their inspiration to form Stop The Violence was motivated by the brutal stabbing of a mutual friend in Copenhagen. They sought to reduce youth violence and challenge some of the negative stereotypes of young people in Denmark that had surrounded the reporting of their friend’s attack. By 2000, Stop the Violence had over 30,000 members and had organized a range of engagement and awareness-raising activities across Denmark. Then Leif Stov, the Director of the Roskilde Festival, asked Stop The Violence to create an activity that would challenge prejudice, encourage dialogue, and build positive relationships between festival-goers at the 2000 Roskilde Festival. Ronni Abergel, Asma Mouna, and Christoffer Erichsen created the “Human Library” – an event where different sub-cultures and groups that are often hostile to one another could connect, engage, and converse. They recruited so many volunteers from the festival-goers that the first ever Human Library featured 75 Human Books. “I figured that if we could make people sit down with a group attached to a certain stigma they don’t like or even know about for that matter, we could diminish violence,” explains Ronni Abergel.

The only permanent reoccurring Human Library event has been in operation since the fall of 2014. More than ten events have been organized at Denmarks biggest library, the Copenhagen Central Library, and the events are continuing to happen. Readers are invited to choose between more than 25 titles published from the Copenhagen Human Library Book Depot. The services of the Human Library are always free to Readers.

Human Library in Denmark
The Human Library in Copenhagen, Denmark featuring a handicapped “Book”.

The Human Library is made up of Human Books, which are people who volunteer to challenge prejudice and stereotype through respectful conversation with members of the public. By volunteering, Books give their permission for people at a Human Library event to ask questions about their life, and to talk openly about prejudice, stereotype, and discrimination. With the help of their Organizer they choose a Book title that directly relates to the prejudice, stereotype, or stigma that they want to challenge, such as issues related to asethnicity, sex, age, disability, sexual preference, gender identity, religion/belief, lifestyle, or other aspects. They receive training beforehand where they have the opportunity to meet other Books from different backgrounds, learn how the Human Library works in practice, and explore the potential questions people could ask. Although the role of the Book might appear to be similar to storytelling, the Human Books are not storytellers. The Human Library encourages active and engaging conversations, rather than storytelling. Books are encouraged to ask as many questions as Readers, and sometimes the Books will ask the first questions. This could be as simple as “Why did you choose me?” or “What did you expect me to look like?”

Human Library shelf of Books
Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Many individual or societal prejudices are based on stereotypes or lack of knowledge. Sometimes our opinions and attitudes are based upon prejudices that we might be unaware that we have. Think about the first thing that comes to mind when you encounter terms such as “Schizophrenic”, “Drug Addict”, “Transgender”, “HIV+”, or “Asylum Seeker”. It is likely that all of our responses will be influenced to some degree by pre-existing ideas. It is only by reflecting the diversity of our communities that the Human Library can effectively challenge prejudices.

Inclusion is of vital importance because the Human Library supports all groups, communities, and individuals who experience discrimination. The Human Library does not highlight a single issue or cause because they believe that prejudice and discrimination has to be challenged in the widest possible context. That is why Human Books are recruited from a wide-range of backgrounds to represent and potentially challenge the multiple prejudices and stereotypes that can be experienced. This is not only a powerful statement of inclusion, it allows for a wide-range of social contact between the volunteers and Readers, exposing them to different experiences and perspectives.

Choice is a vital component of the Human Library. Readers must be given a choice from a range of titles. This is why the mechanism of a library was chosen, and why the Human Library is so effective. Not all Readers will be aware of their own prejudices, let alone motivated to publicly declare and challenge them.

It is important these days to understand what life looks like through another’s eyes, which leads to empathy and encourages compassion. The Human Library is a powerful step towards peace.

The Human Library

Music is a path to peace

When two people are in conflict, they are focused on what separates them. During war, there is a divide between people that makes it difficult to relate to each other. If there was some way to bridge that divide and find a way for opposing people to understand each other, then there would be a path towards peace. There are ways, and one of them is music.

Music is one of the few things that all people can relate to and appreciate. Music makes us human. It is a fundamental part of our lives. Music is found in all cultures and all nations, from the very beginning of our history. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Music has an amazing ability to bridge divides between people. Music can increase empathy and teach us how to relate to others. Music can directly lead to peace. It only takes understanding one person to break barriers of fear, separation, and misunderstanding.

One powerful example of music directly leading to peace was during World War I, in Northern Europe at the end of December 1914. The war had been raging for 5 months, and the soldiers were tired and homesick. In southern Belgium, at the epicentre of the fighting along the Western Front, there were 100,000 soldiers divided by a small empty space known as “no-man’s land”. On one side were British, French, and Belgian troops. On the other side were German and Austrian troops. On Christmas Eve, near the tiny village of Ploegsteert, an amazing thing happened. The British soldiers started noticing that the German soldiers were decorating the tops of their trenches with candles and Christmas trees. Then they heard a familiar tune, the Christmas carol Stille Nacht, which changed their way of thinking about the enemy. The tune was the same as the song Silent Night, which they had grown up with. The British troops responded by singing O Come All Ye Faithful. And then the Germans joined in with the Latin words to the same song. The mutual appreciation of music had an immediate effect on the soldiers on both sides of the divide. Suddenly, they no longer saw the others as enemies, but rather as potential friends that were similar to them. Finally, a German messenger raised a white flag and strode boldly across the snow dusted no-man’s land to broker the Christmas ceasefire.

The Christmas Truce of 1914
Christmas Truce in 1914

The troops then walked out into the empty space and greeted each other. They exchanged food and drinks and buttons and badges. They told stories and jokes, and even played a game of soccer. One German barber gave haircuts to British “customers” in a crater, while others posed for pictures. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described that time as “one human episode amid the atrocities which have stained the memory of war.” A British officer wrote to his wife that a further truce had been fixed for New Year’s Day as “the Germans want to see how the photos come out”. But that never happened, because as soon as their commanders back home heard about the truce, they ordered it ended and began rotating in new troops who had not been humanized by the sharing of music. British Lance-Corporal George Dyce, who participated in the truce, said of the Germans: “They don’t want to fight any more than we do; they are as fed up of this game as we are fit to be. They told us that they would not shoot if we did not, so we have had a holiday for the last two days we were in the trenches… I thought peace was
proclaimed, but no such luck. I am sure if it was left to the men there would be no war.”

Another example of peace bridging the divide between opposing people happened in South America in 2008. The Peace Without Borders concert took place on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, at a time when there was much conflict and mistrust between the two countries. Tens of thousands of people, on both sides of the border, came together to hear music that was popular throughout the region. “It’s not that a song is going to change people. But music becomes an excuse to send a message, that we’re all here together building peace, that we are here as citizens and this is what we want, and we have to be heard. We don’t want to get involved in conflicts between people,” said Juanes, a Colombian musician who played at the concert.

Peace Without Borders Concert

There are many other examples of music bringing opposing people together. There have been Indian and Pakistani musicians playing together, Israeli and Palestinian, Russian and American, North and South Korean, as well as different groups of religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. And these have had a lasting impact on many people. Music touches us deeply, speaking directly to the emotions. This is why the connections that we make through music can be meaningful, and lead to a greater understanding of others.

Music festivals are an excellent way to bring a diverse group of people together and have them co-experience music together. Here in the United States, a concert or festival in a major city like New York or San Francisco brings a very diverse audience together. People from different countries, cultures, and identities, come together to share their love of music. Everyone can find common ground through music, and once that is done, the “other” is no longer unknown. The other is just a different version of yourself. You grow understanding and connections by appreciating the same thing, which leads to peace.

The World Peace Through Technology Organization produces an event every year that brings together many different types of music and people called the How Weird Street Faire. It uses music and art to create an atmosphere where anyone can find common ground with others. The event encourages people to accept and appreciate our differences and what makes us unique, while embracing the things which we share, like good music. The event has enabled friendships to form where before they were unthinkable. We know that music is a path to peace, because we see it happen year after year with an extremely diverse crowd of tens of thousands of people from around the world.

Music is a great uniter, bringing people together. Music crosses all bridges, borders, and time zones. Music transcends all ideologies, politics, religions, languages, cultures, and wealth. Music is oblivious to race, gender, age, and appearance. With so many things to divide us and separate us, it is important to find things that can connect us. Music connects us all.

Music connects people


The new WPTTO logo

The World Peace Through Technology Organization presents our new logo, which shows our peace dove taking a more active role in spreading light and knowledge. The new WPTTO logo was designed by Landon Elmore.

The WPTTO is preparing for exciting new projects that will vastly expand our abilities to inspire peace. The new logo will make its public debut at the How Weird Street Faire on Sunday April 26, 2015, at the Peace Technology Pavilion at the center intersection of the faire. There you will find fun technology exhibits, and information on the history of the peace sign – the world’s most famous peace logo. You can enter the pavilion through the giant peace sign.

The How Weird Street Faire is a project of and fundraiser for the WPTTO. The faire is an experiment in creating peace, finding ways to connect diverse people.

WPTTO logo