On the Common, gathering together as a symbol for peace
Hundreds of men, women, and children gathered Saturday on Boston Common to attempt to set a Guinness world record for the largest human peace symbol.
About noon, 1,682 people — by a Guinness representative’s official count — assembled in the circular formation, flashing the “V” hand sign for peace and swaying to the familiar strains of “Sweet Caroline.”
That number was not enough to set a record, but it accomplished the event’s other goal: bringing attention to the work of Children’s Services of Roxbury, a statewide organization that provides early childhood education, housing assistance, behavioral health support, and other social services to children and families in need.
Frances Storey, a Children’s Services volunteer, said she was somewhat disappointed that the turnout fell short of the 5,000-plus necessary for Guinness to certify a record, but satisfied that its message got across.
“I feel like the expectation wasn’t to break it today, but kind of build awareness, because they talked about [trying again] next year,” said the 18-year-old Back Bay resident, “the idea of just kind of starting up now, but then next year getting bigger and bigger.”
Harry Harding, 39, director of staff development for Children’s Services, said the organization chose the peace symbol because its programs “bring peace of mind to families.”
“This event is both a celebration of that, but also a way for people to know us,” Harding said.
Saturday’s gathering also sought to build and reinforce community ties. Its festive atmosphere included a performance by the Boston Line Dance Group , and attractions for children that included face painting, bubble blowing, games, and arts tables.
It was fun with a purpose, participants said.
Tanisha Jones, 36, of Cambridge, said she came to support Children’s Services but also “to help promote peace, be a part of something. . . . With all that’s been going on in the world, sometimes we need to show that people can get together for good.”
Sid Gelb, 89, of Brookline, said the event offered a message that countered the divisive rhetoric that has lately dominated national politics.
“There’s just too much hatred and unnecessary antipathy against people for different reasons,” Gelb said, “without really thinking about what they’re saying and what they’re doing. . . . I think we’re in a sad place, where there’s too much anti-everything.”
Six-year-old Dhairya Mehta stood in the peace symbol with his 2-year-old brother, Viaan; mother, Shivani; father, Mitul; and relatives visiting from India.
Dhairya said he liked the event best “when my dad put me on his shoulders” and he could see the whole crowd.
“I’m having a little bit of fun,” despite the day’s heat, he admitted, somewhat begrudgingly.
Dhairya said he had rarely seen so many people in one place.
“In India I have,” he said. “But not in America.”