Carbondale’s 11 Days for Peace now has over 40 programs in its seventh year

By Emily Cooper, Staff Reporter

Carbondale’s 11 Days for Peace started with 21 programs in 2011, but has since grown to have over 40.

“The purpose of the 11 Days for peace is to bring all of these civic organizations in faith, churches, and other groups together to work under one umbrella to represent peace community-wide,” Sumera Makhdoom, 11 Days’ informal co-chair and event organizer, said.

Diana Brawley Sussman, library director, said it is usually 11 Days for Peace or Compassion.


“We ask community organizations to put on programs or exhibits around the theme,” Sussman said. “So, they submit the programs to us that will take place over the 11 days. Then, we put together a calendar and publish that in the newspaper, we make flyers and we put it on our website.”

According to, their website promoting 11 Days for Peace, their mission statement is “a coalition that organizes and supports activities that foster nonviolent and compassionate interactions in the community.”

The beginning

11 Days for Peace began with the 10th anniversary of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, looking at alternative responses to violence, Sussman said. It went until Sept. 21st, which is the international day for peace.  

They weren’t the only ones doing the 11 Days for Peace, it was actually worldwide, Sussman said.

Sussman said 11 Days for Peace stated with International Day for Peace and led into October, which is Human Rights month.

“We want peace to continue by doing 11 Days. What we do is to channel our energy into this focus, and it really highlights what our community can do,” Sussman said.  “I think it also highlights what our community always does because each of these programs is not at all difficult for each organization to do.”


Why Carbondale continued

The City of Carbondale continued the 11 Days for Peace because it seemed to work, Sussman said.

“The second time we did it was 11 Days for Compassion. We got a grant from the American Libraries Association called ‘Building Common Ground.’ It had the same values and a lot of the same resources,” Sussman said.

Sussman said they funded the next 11 Days with that grant.

“Then, we won a national award for library programming from the American Libraries Association, which gave us $5,000,” Sussman said. “We put that to a compassion fund in order to continue to support this programming, and we’ve just continued since then.”

Programs and exhibits

Sussman said there are 41 programs and exhibits during the 11 days.

“Throughout the 11 days there has been Houses of Faith Tours in which different houses of faith open their doors and have open houses for people who attend to see what their spiritual practices are like,” Sussman said.

Filmmaker, Sandra Pfeifer, created a film called “Against All the Odds,” Sussman said. It’s about the East St. Louis race riot of 1917, in which all the white residents tried to murder all of the African-American residents and successfully murdered many.

“You might think that is the opposite of peace, but it is important to remember that this can happen, there are people alive, today who experienced it or their parents have experienced it. That community is still trying to recover from it,” Sussman said.

Sussman said the film is rather hopeful.

It’s important for us to examine how things erupt into violence, how you can possibly prevent it, what alternatives there may be to things getting out of hand and most importantly, how community recovers and regains the peace, Sussman said.

On Friday, at 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. the Carbondale Muslim Center’s program called “Out of Context: Clearing-up Myths and Misconceptions about Islam” took place.

Makhdoom said it took 20-25 people to organize this event.

“We had a panel for questions and answers during the portion of the program. We are playing four YouTube videos that we had picked up from Imam Omar Suleiman’s video series ‘Out of Context,’” Makhdoom said.

Empathy for the immigration experience was one of the things that we got to see a lot of when people created these programs, Sussman said.

Several things have wrapped around that, Sussman said. One program is called “My Story: An Anthology of Personal Stories & Portraits of Immigration to Southern Illinois” sponsored by Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project.

A professional photographer takes photographs of individuals or families who want to tell their immigration story, Sussman said. That includes first-generation immigrants, people who have been here for a very long time who may know their family’s immigration story as well

“It’s an opportunity to show people that you need to have this empathy because it is something that either you’ve been through or your ancestors have been through, and there are people who are doing what we’ve always done in America,” Sussman said.

Sussman said there was a program called “Coming to America in 2018: Would you be Welcome?” on Sept. 21 that was a simulation of the immigration process. It was sponsored by the Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project.

“They worked with immigration lawyers to put together scenarios for people to go through, that was legally true, what would happen to you in this situation,” Sussman said.

Sussman said there will be a Candlelight Labyrinth Walk and Vigil at 8:30 p.m. at the Labyrinth Peace Park outside the Gaia House.

“This is a nice symbolic ending to the 11 Days for Peace, but then peace will continue because the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Exhibit,” Sussman said. “That exhibit will open up on Oct. 2, and there will be an opening reception for that on Oct. 5 at 5 p.m.”

An illustrated focus

Every 11 Days has a defined focus, Sussman said. This time it focused on empathy, humanity, and peace.

“We ended with a lot of programs around human rights, which is very appropriate because the United Nations Association of Southern Illinois is putting together an exhibit in Faner Hall in the university museum, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights,” Sussman said.

11 Days for Peace commemorates the positive things throughout the Carbondale community.

“It is also a really good networking opportunity. It is also a great opportunity for the community to come and witness and participate in these opportunities,” Sussman said.

Staff reporter Emily Cooper can be reached at

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