Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shamrocked DePaul

The 9th of February was a date Margaret and Lauren will surely remember for a long time to come. The hours they spent promoting their latest speaking event entailed poster design, Facebook invitations, collaborations via e-mail, and checking out the computer in room 314A to make sure it would function properly during the event.

The senior board execs for the DePaul Irish Society, Margaret O'Leary and Lauren DeBueriis have taken an immersion in ethnic exploration to a campus-wide outreach; Spreading the reality of Irishness -to a student body that knows little more than what they plan for March 17th -about the culture has commanded the attention of big names, names that have stopped the tracks of tourists by the thousands.

Every day people of Irish and/or British descent make pilgrimages to the city of Derry, Northern Ireland, which was the site of some of the most atrocious sectarian attacks between Catholic and Protestent, Irish and British, paramilitary and civilian, for over 30 years (and 800 more, if you're really counting).
Some of these visitors are merely witnesses to what can be, people who want to experience a peace no one ever believed possible.

The most historic location in Derry is a street lined with art. "The People's Gallery" is a collection of Murals painted on the sides of buildings depicting actual and inspired images, victims, and perpetrators of the troubles. It shows symbols of peace designed by school children, and reminders of what came before, designed by chaos.

The collection of murals, painted by 3 Derry men who "smoked alot of cigarettes and drink alot of coffee" were showcased in a slideshow and presented by 2 of their 3 creators this February 9th.

Their first gutsy event last year brought Chicago's Consul Generals of the UK and Ireland together at DePaul to commemorate 10 years of peace in Northern Ireland with an educational twist. Now they are reaching out beyond the politics of peace and bringing the artists who will arguably contribute more to the peace agreement than politicians ever could, because they negotiate the soul of the people, the people who share not only government, but streets, and two sides of the same social history.

Margaret and Lauren learned alot about these murals, having spent some time in a Lincoln Park classroom studying the events in Northern Ireland, and then having spent some time learning about the 6 Northern Counties of Ireland. These counties belong geographically to the Irish Republic, but politically to the United Kingdom. Their population is divided unequally between approximately a third of Celtic descendants who wish to rejoin the Republic and two-thirds who are content with their British connection. In recent years, surveys conducted by numerous peacekeeping and governmental groups have done census polls to measure the identity of the Northern Irish. There is a growing percentage of the population who identify as simply that, something newer than Irish or British, something less passionately devout, something coming into its own.

This information stuck in mind for Margaret and Lauren, who took some time after the event wrapped to explain to me who they are and how they came to host such a program.

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