|THE BIG PEACE PARTY
The Expo Love-In
By Nika Rylski, for The Ottawa Journal
MONTRÉAL -- On Aug. 6, the other half of the world, namely its youth, took over Expo '67. It was also the 22nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
The choice of Aug. 6 by Youth Pavilion officials was
deliberate. What better way to illustrate the chosen theme Youth, Joy and
Peace? Curiously enough, the events of Youth Day revealed the fact that the
youth of today is divided into two distinct groups. On the one hand we
have the wooly-
Curiously enough, the events of Youth Day revealed the fact that the youth of today is divided into two distinct groups. On the one hand we have the wooly-
|haired, kewpie dolly
teeny-boppers, out in psychedelic force at the Youth Pavilion, where the
emphasis was definitely on Youth and Joy, although at times it seemed
Noise and Confusion had taken over.
Over on St. Hélène's Island at Place des Nations the post-puberty crowd, easily identified by their sandals, dark glasses and obscure buttons held a massive peace-in aided and abetted by such elder pacifists as Norman Thomas and Paul Goodman.
Strange indeed, that on a day dedicated to Youth, representatives of the older generation were picked as spokesmen for Peace. Even stranger was the fact that the theme itself got waylaid in an endless series of harangues about the war in Vietnam. It seemed as if Youth Day was being turned into a "Let's pick on the United States" Day.
* * *
SIX SPEAKERS were invited to participate in this "Meeting on Peace." All, with no exception harped on Vietnam. All without fail emphasized the fact that the burden of restoring peace and harmony throughout the world lay with the younger generation. They all seemed to have lost faith with their own.
Marcel Rioux, professor of sociology at the University of Montréal, asserted that today's class war is between the rich and the underdeveloped nations and that the struggle is an unequal one. It was up to young people to modify the economic power of their nations and equalize the struggle.
As Paul Goodman, the eminent American social and literary critic pointed out to his audience, "You don't trust anyone over 30." Mr. Goodman, who went on to explain this remark, got the most enthusiastic reception of all the speakers, with the possible exception of the exiled Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Mr. Goodman suggested at one point that the young people should tear up their passports when travelling abroad so as to promote the real international understanding. He went on to state that "any high school student could run the world better than the men in Washington." He hastened to add that he was not in favor of "dropping out and turning in."
When he spoke of a Free University he did not mean a gathering of place where dropouts could discuss the virtues of LSD and Castro's Cuba but rather a place where serious questioners of accepted mores and values could determine the ways and means of pursuing an honest profession.
Thich Nhat Hanh, author of "Lotus in a Sea of Fire," which has been banned in both South and North Vietnam wondered what the youth of his country would think of this meeting for peace at Expo. "You see, we have been at war 25 years." His statement that the war in Vietnam is one of National Liberation rather than one of the ideologies brought some of the audience to their feet, cheering in agreement.
The last speaker of the day Julian Bond, a member of the Georgia legislature and the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, said the youth of today had two rights, the right to chose its enemy and the right to decide the area in which any resultant battle was to take place.
* * *
THIS TORRENT of words was relieved by singers Pauline Julien and Gordon Lightfoot. There was also a pantomime entitled "Duel," written by Dan Daniels and performed by members of Montréal's Living Theatre which proved to be more dead than alive.
Meanwhile, the more flippant half of the younger generation celebrated the rites of youth in a garishly staged fashion show at the Youth Pavilion.
Accompanied by a raucous group calling themselves the Sinners, an endless procession of mini-skirted models danced and pranced about outdoors to the obvious delight of a similarly dressed audience. Great fun if you could take the heat.
The clothes, designed by Montréal's Jacqueline Familant, were gay, kicky and gimmicky but definitely for those under 20.
Inside the pavilion, the Mobilization for Youth Movement from New York's lower east side illustrated the day's theme rather than just talking about it. The Movement, which is part of the U.S. Anti-Poverty Program is sponsored by both government and private funds. Its aim is to take underprivileged kids off the streets and give them an opportunity to develop their talents.
Cultural Arts Director Woodie King Jr., oversees all areas of instruction which include music, dance, drama and art. Ed Cambridge, a New York director and stage manager who was in charge of the 12 member drama group, explained that the members in the Movement (45 in all) consider their activities as a part-time job and are paid accordingly.
* * *
THE STUDENTS are guided by seasoned professionals, a fact clearly demonstrated by the staging of the one play I managed to see. An original effort entitled "Charades on East Fourth Street," it concerned the taunting of a white policeman by frustrated Negroes in a dingy basement. The dialogue was pungent, the acting honest, the sets simple but effective and the staging tight and taut. In a word, exciting.
Outside on the lawn, slashing away at canvas with house paint, Leyda Rivera, who otherwise works as a nurse's aide, was earnestly explaining that she was no longer interested in abstract expressionism, that she wanted to get back to painting. She laughed ruefully when I pointed out that her present effort looked suspiciously abstract. Asked why she wanted to become a painter Leyda stated quietly: "I want an identity."
Therein, far away from the speechifying and the banners and the frenetic music, lies the real theme of Youth Day.
- End of article. Copyright by The Ottawa Journal, August 18, 1967. All rights reserved.