City at Peace began in 1994 in Washington, D.C. in response to the racial division and violence that was destroying youth and communities in our nation's capital. Teenagers, artists, parents and concerned community leaders came together to address the complex needs of youth and the social concerns of their communities regarding racism and youth violence. What was certain was that the effort to reverse these negative trends would have to be intensive and long-term to be productive, and that it would have to be fun, engaging and relevant to engage teenagers. With these aims in mind, City at Peace, Inc. (AKA City at Peace-DC) was born.
Beginning with a cast of 64 teenagers, City at Peace produced its first show in 1994. The performance and the program received rave reviews and standing ovations - "Nightline" featured the program in a special highlighting its accomplishments in June 1995. In 1995 and 1996, the number of teenagers wanting to participate grew beyond expectations - over 250 youth tried out in 1996. In response to this demand, City at Peace began a second program in 1997 and began to serve over 100 teenagers a year.
The local demand for City at Peace in Washington, D.C. was matched by an increasing demand from other cities for the City at Peace program. Letters, e-mails and phone calls from individuals and organizations in various cities asked, "How are you able to do that with teenagers?" The question was quickly followed by, "And can you come to our city and do that for our youth?"
City at Peace began assisting communities that demonstrated a serious initiative in beginning new programs. These efforts gave rise to City at Peace programs in Santa Barbara, California, Charlotte, North Carolina and an exchange project in Israel. Clearly, however, the need to respond to national demand warranted more attention.
In 1999, City at Peace began a planning process to consider scaling up to national scope. Led by Founding Director Paul Griffin, a team of national non-profit, business and foundation leaders convened to address these issues. An HBO documentary entitled "city at peace" aired that year giving further momentum to national expansion. Planning work culminated in the incorporation of Cities at Peace AKA City at Peace-National in June 2000 and the receipt of its non-profit status in June 2001.
With a new national office in New York City, City at Peace programs continue in Washington, D.C., Charlotte and Santa Barbara, and have grown to ten communities in Israel. ÝCity at Peace-DC remains an independent organization and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary there.Ý New City at Peace programs began in Los Angeles and New York in February 2002. City at Peace-Baton Rouge began its program in November 2003. City at Peace-Cape Town began its first program in August 2005.
What began as a local effort by a handful of artists, teens and concerned adults has grown into an emerging national network of City at Peace cities that will involve over 270 youth this year working with over 40 artists in 6 U.S. cities and 2 countries to produce 10 original works of musical theater and even more community change projects. Local Boards and volunteer teams involving hundreds of adults support this work with their time and expertise. To date, over 2,000 youth have participated in City at Peace. Together, they have created 38 original musicals witnessed by over 100,000 live audience.
Their work - and their lives - are testament to the power and impact that young people can offer to our cities in need of their hope. And, until we truly live in a city at peace, we will continue acting, dancing, singing and reaching for honest understanding across divisions, real solutions to our most difficult conflicts, and future leadership that can, and will, achieve peace.
Cross-cultural understanding: We believe in, understand, value and respect diversity. We actively pursue diversity in every aspect of the organization: youth participants, staff, volunteers, contributors and board members.
Youth leadership: We believe in, understand and increase the power of young people to become leaders. We give them opportunities to learn and exercise that power both on stage and in their lives. We motivate them by holding them to the highest standards of achievement, and by consistently expressing the joy and excitement we feel while working with them.
Integrity: The City at Peace organization is operated in a manner consistent with its mission at every point in its operations.
Excellence: We are committed to excellence in all areas of operation, including the performing arts, programming, community support and action, financial support, and the administration of the program