With expressions of love and solidarity in their hearts and in chalk-written messages on the pavement, about 1,000 community members united in support of inclusion and cultural diversity.
What started out as one group’s attempt to run an anti-immigration rally at Peterborough’s city hall in 2017, ended much differently, turning an act of hate and intolerance into one of hope and acceptance.
A lot of people imagine a better world. Others step up and create it.
Some of these community-building citizens are part of a local group called Many Windows, One Light, a collaborative that’s hosting an event Feb. 9 at The Mount Community Centre in Peterborough. Registration is already at capacity for Many Windows, One Light 2019: Towards a Caring and Welcoming Community.
“I think people are starting to look in their own community for ways of changing the story around us.”
— Ben Wolfe
Ben Wolfe, a local community-builder and national Art of Hosting practitioner, tells Electric City Magazine he suspects one of the reasons for the keen interest in the event is timing.
“I think people are starting to look in their own community for ways of changing the story around us,” Ben says.
“It can be so conflictual and fear-oriented right now and we know that we’re better than that. That energy has spread to a lot of positive networks in the community. Our challenge is going to be not having enough space for everyone who wants to be there.”
Many Windows, One Light 2019 offers an afternoon of participatory community dialogue and connection that will share stories of local, proactive responses to hate and uncover synergies and next steps among activists, community leaders and groups doing existing work on these issues.
This event is created by a community coalition of 14 faith and non-faith groups and sponsored by partners including the Community Race Relations Committee, the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough, the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough and the Beth Israel Congregation.
It features a context-setting “provocateur” presentation by guest speaker, Bernie Farber, one of Canada’s leading experts on human rights and race relations, and chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, and a following question-and-answer session.
Artfully-hosted participatory dialogue will follow to uncover possibilities, partnerships and next steps.
The story-telling round will feature some of the most inspired, sustained and proactive examples that centre around building a better community.
The solidarity weekend, which involved the gathering of people and penning of welcome messages in chalk throughout the city, is just one example. “It was just spectacular,” Ben says, reflecting on the event that occurred about 18 months ago.
Another successful local example is Bridges out of Poverty, a program that pairs people who have economic struggles with those who don’t, which is building a community of mentorship and understanding in the large cultural differences in economics.
The Sacred Water Walks led by Indigenous women but open to all, and The Abraham Festival, an annual festival and gathering of the city’s Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities, are other important successes.
Those activities feature a mix of creative energies, as will the upcoming event. Many Windows One Light 2019 provides the chance for a very diverse group of people to convene in a space to share stories like these, catalyze community change and inspire next steps.
Also at the event, the Creating Space art hive will be there with artmaking supplies. The event will wrap up with a potluck dinner for all participants.
“I’m excited to be one of the people that meets every single person who comes to the event… It feels like a real honour to be in that position.”
— Jovanna Soligo
Jovanna Soligo, active citizen and member of the Unitarian fellowship of Peterborough, who is on the calling team and will serve as the greeter for the event, is excited about the possibilities for Many Windows, One Light 2019.
She’s pleased spiritual groups are involved in hosting the event as it reflects the origin of Many Windows, One Light.
Jovanna has enjoyed being part of the creation and imagination of the event and has particularly thrived on the interactions through the diverse group of community members involved. She is looking forward to seeing how it comes to fruition.
“I’m excited to be one of the people that meets every single person who comes to the event,” Jovanna says.
“It feels like a real honour to be in that position.”
Jovanna expects the event will provide a tremendous opportunity for uniting and connecting people who haven’t met before and offering them the space to identify and explore their commonalities.
Ben hopes Many Windows, One Light 2019 ultimately forges deeper relationships and stimulates ideas for new community-building projects and initiatives.
Many Windows, One Light 2019 started with a pre-event on Feb. 1, by marking Peterborough’s first-ever proclamation of Black History Month with a film and dialogue evening that drew 120 people. It brought together multiple groups, planners and partners, including Many Windows, One Light and the Community Race Relations Committee — combining their energies and mingling their networks. It included newly-elected black city Councillor Stephen Wright introducing the originator of Black History Month in Ontario in 1995 — Rosemary Sadlier — to lead the discussion. It will continue with a few other events yet to be imagined, possibly at this weekend’s event.
To register for Many Windows, One Light 2019 click here.
To view a short video on the Solidarity Weekend, click here.
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