I am a member of the Laconia High School Class of 2015. After graduation I began traveling throughout the United States, Mexico, and Europe as a cast member with the international non-profit organization Up with People. This organization has been around for 50 years, working to bring people together through music and service. Throughout these months I have been exposed to many different international issues that I had been ignorant of at home. It has become apparent that the mission of Up with People is no less relevant now than it was when it began in 1965. Rather, in this current time of fear and change, our positive message is needed more than ever. Let me tell you why.
I was five years old when the twin towers fell, changing the world I grew up in. I walked into airports with high security, heard racist remarks stemming from fear of future attacks, and watched my friends' parents get deployed to fight in the War on Terror. This was the first taste of terrorism I ever had experienced, but sadly was not the last.
The attack on Paris came as a horrible shock to me and to my cast of young people from 20 different countries. In our show, we sing a song called ''I Will'' that promotes hope and inspires us to do something about the issues we witness. We held signs during the song on November 14 that read, "Je suis Paris", "I will stand up against acts of terrorism," "I will not be silenced by fear," and "Never forget 9/11." The crowd gave us a standing ovation and the cast cried as we watched tears run down our audience's faces. This was one of the most powerful moments of my life because it showed that the positive connection between people is so necessary during times of tragedy.
In recent days, the threat of terrorism has increased in places like Brussels, Belgium, which happens to be the city we were supposed to be visiting this week. Unfortunately, due to the increased threat level, we were not able to visit Brussels, as it would put the cast at too much risk to enter the city. Thus, still in Vaduz, Lichtenstein for an undetermined amount of time, we have decided to take action.
Alongside other passionate cast members, we have chosen to speak out against acts of terrorism by promoting love and hope among people, showing that underneath our differences we are all human. We are working to make a video using cast members, as well as alumni and communities from around the world, stating the message that we will not be silenced during this time of fear. Additionally, we are writing to past host families, governments, local communities, refugees and schools trying to promote awareness of the issues that are going on, while promoting a peaceful way of approaching and resolving these conflicts.
I ask that as my local community you join me in trying to promote positive ways to bring humanity together and fight against acts of terrorism with positivity and love. Small acts of kindness, like opening your home to those in need or donating to organizations will help to promote positive connections between people. Additionally, I think it is so important to try to understand why these acts of terrorism are occurring and spread this informed awareness to others.
I will not be silenced by the problems and tragedies that are presently facing the world today; I will speak out and try and find solutions. I hope you will join me.
(Alana Persson is a Laconia resident currently touring in Europe with Up With People. During her years as a student at Laconia High School she worked at The Daily Sun as an editorial assistant.)