Solidarity Talk highlights local organizations working to inspire equity
DILLON — The third round of a monthly installation of Solidarity Talks took place at the Dillon Amphitheater on Sunday, Aug. 16. The title of this talk was “Collective Consciousness,” with local organizations and individuals who uplift minorities, prioritize mental health or otherwise work to better the community were given the opportunity to speak. Organizer Alexandria Carns explained that she wanted to shed light on organizations that are already putting forth effort to inspire equality, inclusion and equity, and that the objective of this particular talk was to be uplifting and hopeful.
“A lot of our talks have been about how people are disenfranchised and marginalized in society but I also wanted to show, hey, there is hope, there are people doing the work and combating against all these various perspectives,” Carns said.
The NewArkansans kicked off the event with live music before panelists began sharing about their organizations, the causes they support and the problems they are working to solve.
Claudia King, Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault development director, said that in 2020, the organization has seen a dramatic increase in need for its services. She said that while in all of 2019, Summit Advocates provided 1,844 nights of safety, but in 2020 through Aug. 1, nearly 2,500 nights have already been provided.
“We as a society continue to fail our survivors,” King said. “As long as we make assumptions as to who can be a survivor or an abuser based on gender identity, race, nation of origin, age, background, education, employment and as long as we judge survivors for a failure to leave, we are in fact the problem. We need to shift our thinking collectively to a place of love and support versus questioning and judgment.”
King said that a community can be supportive of victims by gaining knowledge, knowing the signs of domestic violence and speaking out in a nonjudgmental way when these signs are recognized.
Anita Overmyer, director of development at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, started by stating that the need the center has experienced since March is “unbelievable” and thanked the community for being supportive of the center’s efforts. Overmyer said that families have relied on the center over the years during their most challenging times, and through COVID-19, the center has redesigned its processes.
The center went from serving 80 people per week to over 1,000 in its food pantries and has worked to bridge language barriers for the county’s Spanish speaking population — particularly in its mental health support system — by creating a peer support group.
Josh Blanchard, executive director of the Lake Dillon Theatre Co., explained that while the theater program works to address relevant concerns in the community and allows people who feel marginalized to have their stories be heard, the company also creates an education series and participates in outreach initiatives. The education series is meant to provide programming that is equitable, allowing all members of the community to participate year-round. The youth programs continued this summer outside, engaging children and meeting social-emotional needs while providing child care for working families.
Blanchard discussed the company’s outreach initiatives, which often tie into the theater’s own initiatives and are meant to provide more opportunity to talk about issues that may have been brought up in a show. For example, the Lake Dillon Theatre Co. produced a show one season, called “Every Brilliant Thing,” that examined mental health. The company partnered with Building Hope Summit County and the Summit Community Care Clinic to create a platform for stigma reduction and every night there was an audience discussion on how mental health affects Summit County residents.
Summit School District Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. described his personal background growing up in Las Vegas and explained that his parents were both born in the South during the time of Jim Crow laws. The idea that unfair systems such as Jim Crow existed stuck with him at a young age.
Smith said he wants to be in a place where he could create enabling conditions so that everyone could realize their potential. He said this idea has served his platform in education.
“My title is superintendent of schools,” Smith said. “My role is to disrupt and dismantle inequitable systems, policies, practices and procedures.”
Isabel Rodríguez, program manager of The Cycle Effect, shared the mission of the program, which is to empower young women through mountain biking. She noted that the program is committed to working with 70% Latina participants, which is deliberate as mountain biking is white and male-dominated.
Rodríguez talked about how she has adjusted the program in various ways to meet the needs of young Latina women, such as holding practice at a later time to accommodate young women who have to work after school, having practice close to the neighborhoods where the participants live and providing transportation.
“We’re really looking at our system, looking at our process, looking at our policies and learning or unlearning or relearning what we need to do so that we truly make this program accessible to the community that we said we are committing to working with,” Rodríguez said.
Erin Young, who moderated the event, noticed that much of the audience had been to previous Solidarity Talks and encouraged audience members to bring friends to the solidarity events.
“I challenge you all after this to start conversations with more people so that it’s not just the same group every month … so you can get more allies, you can get more advocates and you can get more people involved in the conversation,” Young said.
Young also said that while educators were on stage speaking at the event, audience members can be educators themselves, particularly to their own families.
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