Melting Pot

Area residents joined representatives from eight local organizations on Friday for a festival that celebrated differences and mutual respect.

The inaugural Festival of PRIDE, (Promoting Respect for Individual Differences for Everyone), was held at the Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney Renaissance Center on Friday.

The event began with a potluck, in which each organization brought a dish to share. According to Max Martin, a representative of Eastside YMCA who helped organize the event, a warm meal shared together was the perfect way to start the evening.

“It’s a great way to get the community together,” said Martin. “Everybody has their own way of getting together, and I feel that bringing food into the family here is a way to learn from each other.”

After enjoying a meal together at circular tables, representatives from each organization took the stage to answer three questions. Each organization was tasked with presenting the answers to the following questions: “What unique gifts do you have to offer to the community?” “In what ways can we treat each other better?” and “How will supporting one another make our community stronger?”

“The community has a history of racism, and sometimes we still have patches here – this group is going to try to break that,” said Martin. “Each organization has a piece of the puzzle, and after answering the three questions will put the puzzle together.”

The event was held in April to commemorate the annual YWCA Stand Against Racism. As a result, the YWCA’s Pledge Against Racism was read aloud by everyone at the end of the event. The pledge states: “As an individual committed to social justice, I stand with the YWCA against racism and discrimination of any kind. I will commit to a lifetime of promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people in my community and in the world.”

According to Beth Oakes, executive director for YWCA, the event was a culmination of about four months of planning by the YWCA Racial Justice committee and the other seven organizations.

“The YWCA has a stand against racism on this day every year,” said Oakes. “We’ve done things in the past, and this year we wanted do something that was a little more meaningful and brought more people together. We wanted something with more of an impact, so we tried to bring people together for a discussion about bringing our community together. The idea behind the potluck is that food brings us together, and we’re trying foods that we may not have ever tried before. When we were planning Max said that we have to have food, because a lot of discussion happens after you share something in common.”

Martin said that he felt the event went very well, and that he could see himself hosting something similar every year for at least the next 15 years.

“I see that there is a movement coming,” said Martin. “I’ve been to a lot of meetings and get-togethers and they are all sterile. This was a non-sterile environment, and everybody spoke their mind.”

Participating organizations included: YWCA Racial Justice committee, Catholic Charities, Eastside YMCA, Jamestown Community College, The Resource Center, Congregation Hesed Abraham, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Sam Qadri, of the Jamestown Islamic Society, was also present to open the ceremony with a prayer.

For more information, call the YWCA at 488-2237 or visit www.standagainstracism.com.