Detroit punk rocker on Nobel Peace Prize shortlist?

Decades ago, Ivan Suvanjieff lived another life as Mark J. Norton. In the '70s and '80s, he was a Detroit punk rocker: the vocalist of the Ramrods, and an associate editor for CREEM magazine.

Now, he and wife Dawn Engle could be among the top contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Well, maybe.

The statutes of the Nobel Foundation keep all information on nominations a secret from the public eye for at least 50 years. But of course, that hasn't stopped the speculation machine, with Suvanjieff and Engle getting mentioned as being among the top contenders for the prize.

The Norwegian newspaper News in English — featuring commentary from Nobel experts Kristian Harpviken, head of the Norway’s peace research institute PRIO, and historian Asle Sveen, who co-wrote the detailed book about the first 100 years of the Peace Prize — reports that former Nobel Peace Prize winners, including South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu, have nominated Suvanjieff and Engle:

Meanwhile, seven former Nobel Peace Prize winners including Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984), Rigoberta Menchu Tum (1992), President Oscar Arias (1987), Leymah Gbowee (2011), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (1980), Betty Williams (1976) and Jody Williams (1997) have nominated a more “audacious” candidate, according the Tutu: The US-based PeaceJam Foundation’s co-founders Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff, for their campaigns that have involved more than a million young people in 39 countries, creating projects designed to solve the most pressing problems in their own communities. PeaceJam has also carried out more than 200 Peace Congresses for Youth, where young leaders work alongside Peace Prize laureates, Tutu wrote, calling PeaceJam “one of the most transformational programs for young people that I have ever seen.” Now, Tutu wrote in his nomination letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, PeaceJam is involved with its “One Billion Acts of Peace” campaign aimed at launching a wide variety of other projects to “inspire global citizens.” The group has also figured in recent international speculation, although neither Sveen nor Harpviken think nominations from former prize winners carry more weight than others.

Take this news with a grain of salt: The article comes short of placing the couple on any sort of official shortlist. And there's plenty of competition. There are 273 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 — a record high.

Both raised in Michigan, Suvanjieff and Engle met in Colorado. Engle has a background as an economist, previously working as a politico Washington, D.C. They founded PeaceJam in 1993 to bring together Nobel Peace Laureates to mentor youth around the world, and more recently launched the One Billion Acts of Peace campaign.

According to the PeaceJam website, the idea for the organization came when Suvanjieff spoke with gang-involved youth in Denver and realized they knew about Tutu's nonviolent teachings.

In a recent story published in Metro Times this summer, Liz Warner interviewed Suvanjieff and Engle about their work. According to Engle, Suvanjieff's former rock 'n' roll lifestyle is an asset when dealing with Nobel Prize Laureates:

"When we first meet the Nobel Peace Prize winners, we let them know that Ivan is a rocker from the Ramrods, sometimes even wearing his leather jacket. [We are] the punk rocker and the economist — and they love that. They know when they sign up that it is because it's done in this new way, this kind of Detroit grassroots gritty kind of way and that it is going to work."

Read Warner's full story, "Detroit Punks: The revolution revealed," which further explores the connection between punk rock and peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner will be announced on Friday, Oct. 9.

About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland “Lee” DeVito is the editor in chief of Detroit Metro Times since 2016. His writing has also been published in Hour Detroit, VICE, In These Times, and New City. He once asked porn star Stormy Daniels to spank him with an issue of Metro Times. She obliged...
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