Speak out!

By Mara Rockliff

Giant puppets. Street theater. Guitar riffs. And the chance to exercise your right to free speech– between mouthfuls of vegetable pakora. What more could you find to do in beautiful downtown Charlottesville on a Saturday in May?
    How about working for world peace? Well, you can do that too: come to the Speak Out! Festival for Peace and Justice May 4. It’s sponsored by the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and the Virginia Organizing Project, and it happens at the county office building beginning at 11am.
Are you terrified that the "war on terrorism" has spawned a new generation of angry young anti-Americans? Wondering if peace will ever be possible in the Middle East– or anywhere? Asking yourself about words like "justice" and "freedom"? Listen and learn.  
If you went to the teach-ins last September, you'll see familiar faces from UVA, including the dynamic– rumor has it— Robert Fatton, a professor in the government and foreign affairs department. Others speak from their own experience, such as Heena Reiter and Faoud Fadil, who will give Jewish and Muslim perspectives on Palestinian independence.
After each speaker, there will be equal time for responses and comments at an open mic. Speak your mind! But no filibustering– open mic rule is two minutes per person.
    If you can't dance, you don't want their revolution? Take a break from politics and head over to the entertainment stage. Even warmongers won't want to miss hometown celebrities Devon and Danny Schmidt, back from tour and doing their singing-songwriter thing. Stratton Salidis, Charlottesville's funniest politician– well, funniest on purpose– will be there belting out his trademark on-the-spot ditties. The festival Organizers have a slew of great musical acts lined up, from the Old Dogs acoustic roots duo to teen-girl a cappella group PHIZ.
    Juggler Dave Vandeveer will be on the scene along with SOA (School of the Americas) performers with their really big puppets. And if you missed the new Guerrilla Arts Action Theater Organization at the Buy Nothing Day parade back in November, catch their antics now.
    Love samosas and biryani, but won’t face Route 29 traffic and sprawl? Get it here: the Taj Mahal will have food for sale at the festival as will Zandi's Subs & Deli. Of course, the county office building also happens to be handy to Bodo's.
    Are we teetering on the brink of World War III? Or can we find hope for what 9-11peace.org calls "World Peace I"? Come listen up– and Speak Out.

The Speak Out! Festival for Peace and Justice takes place Saturday, May 4, 11 am-5 pm, on the lawn of the Albemarle County Office Building (corner of Preston and McIntire). Rain date Sunday, May 5. The festival is sponsored by the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and The Virginia Organizing Project. 961-6278.