This past Saturday night, hundreds of students celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the Armistice for World War One (WWI) the way many celebrated Halloween, Homecoming and Thursdays in October: with a party on Hoxsey Street. The celebration – known as the Peace Party – seemed in many respects like a typical College party. Empty red solo cups and Natural Light beer cans littered the floor. Speakers in the dimly-lit basement of the house blasted music as partygoers danced and laughed and tried to talk over the music.
But unlike the myriad of parties held at the College, the Peace Party had been almost two years in the making. In February 2017, after attending a cliquey, unpleasant party, Adrian Black ’19, then a sophomore, had an idea. “I remember thinking it would be better to have a party that was about getting to know people you didn’t know, where everybody was friends with everybody,” he said. “It occurred to me that we were coming up on the centennial of the end of WWI – and by coming up on, I mean it was still in a couple of years [away].”
Black created a Facebook group for the Peace Party. Over the last 20 months, people in the group have expressed their excitement for the event. In October of 2017, Chris Avila ’21 posted, “Wow, we are really building this up! Can’t wait – just 13 months to go guys!” Others posted to mark 11 months, six months, one month and one week left until the party.
“It has sort of built up the hype itself,” Black said. “I want to say that I’ve been clever about this, but I think when you plan a party out a year-and-a-half in advance, people get pretty hyped up about it.”
Black co-hosted the party with Mack Radin ’19. “I would give Adrian most of the credit, but I definitely supplied my name and moral support to the event,” Radin said. Moral support meant, he said, that “from the very beginning, from day one, I was with [Black] every step of the way, making sure that when he made posts [in the Facebook group], I liked them. I liked three-quarters of the posts he made on Facebook.”
Black had planned to host the party in his apartment, but after over 250 people RVSPed “yes” to the event on Facebook, his friends who live on Hoxsey Street offered to hold it there.
When Black found out a few weeks ago that First Chance, a dance for the senior class, would be the same night as the Peace Party, he was “a little perturbed.” Because most of his friends are seniors, he was concerned that the party would lack attendees.
But as Ari Ball-Burack ’19 noted, the party was lively. “It [was] great,” he said. “We [had] people upstairs. The downstairs finally lived up to its potential as a dance space. People seem[ed] to be having an all-around good time. And we [were] celebrating something very honorable and noble: world peace.”
Usually, of course, armistice commemorations are more somber than a Hoxsey party. After all, tens of millions of people died in WWI. Black said he is aware that the armistice centennial is not entirely a cause for celebration.
“But I think the promise of peace matters. And not just in this trivial way, where I’m dressed like some hippie, like John Lennon or whatever,” Black, who wore blue-tinted round glasses, blue printed pants and an unbuttoned pink and green paisley shirt, said. “That hope – that belief in thinking that peace is possible – counts. Even if it just makes people come to this party and get to know one another. In that trivial sense, at this college, people being friendly with each other – I think that matters for something.”
Students at the College have plenty of opportunities for reflection and seriousness, Radin said. “But it’s also important to be able to celebrate the good things that we have in life and the peaceful moments we can find on campus and elsewhere in the world… Peace hasn’t really worked out on a worldwide scale, and there’s a lot of tension between people in a lot of different ways. So it’s important to be able to find those moments of empathy [for people] to be able to connect with those around them. And if we get to provide a moment of empathy to just one pair of people through this party, then I feel like we’ll have succeeded.”
“I think this party definitely fulfills its goal of trying to encompass a large number of students in lots of different groups,” Georgia Panitz ’22, a partygoer, said. “I feel that this is probably the most diverse group of students that I’ve seen at a party since I’ve been here, in terms of people that aren’t necessarily just athletes or from a certain theater group or musical group. It’s students from all grades, from different groups on campus.”
And some of the partygoers were not even students at the College. Lucian Black, a student at Bowdoin and Black’s twin brother, was in attendance, along with ten of his friends. They drove four-and-a-half hours from Bowdoin to the College for the party.
“In 1918, newspapers called this the greatest day in history,” he said in reference to the armistice. “We’re trying to recreate the greatest day in history.”