Over 500 people attended a unique Mother’s Day celebration, featuring music and antiwar activism instead of cards and flowers, yesterday at Arlington West Cemetery.

MotherHearts, a local organization of women committed to ending war, and the Santa Barbara Veterans for Peace hosted “Return to the Spirit of Mother’s Day,” between 1 and 3 p.m. Local musicians Richard Reeves, Kenny Edwards and Patti Teel performed at the event, and speakers from various local groups talked to the crowd about activism and pacifism.

Jan Helsel, a member of MotherHearts, said the event was designed to draw attention to the financial and human costs of war, to inform people of the original intent of Mother’s Day and to inspire local residents to advocate for peace.

“The event is not going to change anything unless it inspires people to act for change,” Helsel said.

MotherHearts Founder Lisa Wysel, Arlington West Founder Stephen Sherrill and Hanne Fonquist, an advocate for social justice, spoke about their desire for international peace and encouraged the crowd to take action against war. UCSB English professor and Santa Barbara’s current Poet Laureate Barry Spacks recited “For Mothers in Days of War,” which he wrote specifically for the event.

Kris Janney, who attended the event with her two sons, said the demonstration gave her a chance to honor people who have made sacrifices for the war in Iraq.

“I want to make a statement about how we, as mothers, can help end the violence,” Janney said. “I am also here to grieve for mothers who have lost children in the war.”

UC San Francisco professor Jean Shinoda Bolen spoke about the ways women have changed the world, focusing on the women’s movement of the 1960s. Bolen said she chose to take part in “Return to the Spirit of Mother’s Day” in order to educate people about the current situation in Iraq.

“When you’re doing the right thing, it feels like magic happens,” Bolen said. “All of this is grassroots activism from the heart. I was asked to speak at this event, and I could not think of a better way to spend Mother’s Day.”

Helsel said she thinks the event provided the organization a chance to reach local students.

“The college kids are actually quite comfortable with their iPods and their BMWs,” Helsel said. “It is a challenge to get them to be aware.”

Helsel said MotherHearts is currently working to end the war in Iraq and promote peaceful solutions to international conflict.

“We don’t raise our sons to kill, and nobody changes diapers to have their sons killed,” Helsel said. “For us as a group, our goal is to have a Mother’s Day event next year to celebrate that the war is over.”

MotherHearts is against all wars, Wysel said, not just the war in Iraq.

“We have been meeting to plan for this event, and to support each other,” Wysel said. “We believe that taking war off the table as a solution for conflict is possible. We are standing up for the sacredness of life.”

Helsel’s son, Santa Barbara City College student Christian Cerrilla, said he thinks the event was informative.

“It is so powerful. You see kids younger than me serving in the war,” Cerrilla said.