Rows of brightly colored yoga mats lined the exterior of LA Live. Long yellow school buses arrived to drop off dozens of children from both the Afterschool All Stars LA Program and The Watts Bears for a program sponsored by UNICEF.
Behind the stage, seven adults in teal uniforms held hands and set an intention for peace and a raucous good time. We stormed the stage as our captain Zachariah Fisher announced, “Hello… we are the Peace Guardians!”
A couple months later, we gathered for our weekly Co-Lab. It’s an outdoor jungle gym, laboratory, classroom, and temple all rolled into one. This is where we prep for events including the oft-described birthplace of the organization: Bhakti Fest.
We experiment with indigenous practices, theater games, meditations, and movement theories to construct experiences for youth that promote mindfulness through fun, education, and empowerment. Many of our Co-Labs are facilitated by Paradox Pollack, a former circus ringmaster and movement director for feature films (including Marvel’s Thor). He has taught Kecak dance (also known as the Balinese Monkey Chant) for 20 years.
The Genesis of Peace Guardians and Their Program for Youth Empowerment
While Fisher was working in corporate sales, he envisioned a peace-based education movement merging ancient and modern mindfulness practices. “I would drive past schools on my way to work and tear up, knowing that my heart yearned to be out there with the kids and not stuck in a cubicle.” This led to him hosting an event for youth in Topanga featuring qi gong, mindfulness, yoga, and smoothies.
“I would drive past schools on my way to work and tear up, knowing that my heart yearned to be out there with the kids and not stuck in a cubicle.” -Zachariah Fisher
Shortly after, Fisher left his corporate job to pursue his passion. In the two years since that Topanga event, he has continued to expand his ideas for teaching youth through mindfulness, theater, and play.
The team who continues to develop the Peace Guardians curriculum and programs is comprised of 10 multi-faceted para-facilitators with backgrounds including nutrition, trauma, meditation, theater, music, yoga, and martial arts.
Super Hero Curriculum and the Kecak
The Peace Guardian curriculum stands on eight pillars: Wonder, Play, Collaboration, Courage, Connection, Care, Integrity and Guardianship. Kids are invited to express each of these individually and as a collective.
The kids are encouraged to discover their unique superpower, identify their superhero name, and demonstrate their powers through movement and sound. They form teams and embark on missions to solve real-world problems with their collective peaceful powers.
The Kecak as facilitated by Paradox represents holding one’s place in the world while intersecting with others. A group forms by creating concentric rings then divided into slices. Each slice has a different rhythm that interlocks perfectly with every other piece. The ethos of this collaborative practice is to be strong and unified with the whole.
Peace Guardians and Watts Bears
In July, 2017, Peace Guardians developed a summer program for the Watts Bears—a group of student football and track athletes from the communities of South Central LA—who are coached by the LAPD.
Working in conjunction with the Watts officers and coaches, Peace Guardians and guest teachers spent several hours a day with the students playing superhero games, creating super-food smoothies, and facilitating mindfulness exercises as self-mastery tools for them to incorporate into their lives.
Peace Guardians and Sunwarrior Youth Ambassador Program
With a mission to uplift young people, Zachariah connected with Kimberly Kirk, the events coordinator at Sunwarrior, a plant-based super-food company, to create a Youth Ambassador Program.
The program offers kids a platform to share healthy lifestyle with peers, and to serve as role models in their communities. Peace Guardians and Sunwarrior have selected the first two youth ambassadors: Akida Warmsley, quarterback for the Watts Bears Junior Team, and Cali Dicapo, an up-and-coming actress and model. “I’m most excited about getting to help the community and inspiring others to lead a healthier lifestyle,” says Dicapo.
Youth Ambassador Program Launch at Bhakti Fest
The Youth Ambassador Program launches at Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree on Saturday September 9. At the festival, Peace Guardians will join forces with Sunwarrior and other value-driven brands to host an interactive workshop led by long-standing Sunwarrior Ambassador DJ Cavem Moetavation and Youth Ambassador Dicapo.
DJ Cavem will teach the children how to live a healthy life by going green, gardening organically and exercising, while making beats with actual beets. In addition, Cali will lead a segment on the three Rs: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
After the workshop, DJ Cavem, Rocco Moon, Kiyoshi, and the Peace Guardian team will perform conscious hip-hop on the Hanuman Stage.
Peace Guardians will also lead several all-ages workshops in Kid’s Land at Bhakti Fest. Topics include parent–child connection, the Maori Haka from New Zealand, and Sing The World Awake, a music and movement experience that combines sacred sound, mantra, mudras and dance.
“This year’s Bhakti Fest is going to be off the charts,” says Fisher. “Sunwarrior has been incredibly supportive in bringing the vision to life.”