HARNESS YOUR ENERGY TO POWER CHANGE WITH AMERICA FERRERA, WILMER VALDERRAMA & RYAN PIERS WILLIAMS

While Global Citizen Festival rocked the streets of New York last weekend a more intimate event took place in Los Angeles. It inspired the type of engaged conversation that often happens when socially-conscious changemakers come together. 

ACTRESS/ACTIVIST AMERICA FERRERA SPEAKS ONSTAGE AT HARNESS / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

ACTRESS/ACTIVIST AMERICA FERRERA SPEAKS ONSTAGE AT HARNESS / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

By: Ashley Coffey
September 29, 2017

"We must have a greater commitment to love and compassion," actress/activist America Ferrera stated with a passion at Harness last Saturday, September 23.

HARNESS MAINSTAGE EVENT  - THE WAY FORWARD -  TOOK PLACE AT NEUEHOUSE IN HOLLYWOOD SEPTEMBER 23 / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

HARNESS MAINSTAGE EVENT  - THE WAY FORWARD -  TOOK PLACE AT NEUEHOUSE IN HOLLYWOOD SEPTEMBER 23 / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

Roughly 250 artists, activists and socially-conscious community members like Yara Shahidi ("Black-ish" & "Grown-ish") harnessed their energy to power change at NeueHouse in Hollywood. Harness, a collective co-founded by Ferrera, her husband Ryan Piers Williams and Wilmer Valderrama, pledges to connect communities through conversation. The Harness event series is only seven months old, but it has already hosted three events in Los Angeles and one in New York.

Their fourth event opened with an Indigenous ceremony led by members of the Tongva tribe, a group of people with native heritage in Los Angeles. During the ritual a flag flew while a singer sang in a pitch that brought tears to the eyes of  the crowd. An Indigenous artist from B.Yellowtail collective sat in the front row and Ferrera later joined her. Their rapport radiated from the couch they were sitting on as if they were two friends catching up after months of not seeing one another. 

THE EVENT OPENED WITH AN INDIGENOUS CEREMONY BY A MEMBER OF THE TONGVA TRIBE  TO HONOR THE SACRED LOS ANGELES LAND WHERE HARNESS TOOK PLACE / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

THE EVENT OPENED WITH AN INDIGENOUS CEREMONY BY A MEMBER OF THE TONGVA TRIBE  TO HONOR THE SACRED LOS ANGELES LAND WHERE HARNESS TOOK PLACE / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

The racial divide of the world outside of NeueHouse seemed non-existent.

At this event there were no border walls. Instead Sikh interfaith leader Valerie Kaur sat next to members of Black Lives Matter who then shared conversations with gender non-conforming activists and DACA recipient Gaston Cazares. Although ICE deported Cazares back to México yesterday, Harness and UndocuMedia pledged to keep the fight alive by donating to YouCaring, a compassionate crowdfunding platform. Their campaign goal is to raise $55,000 to support Cazares' family while their breadwinner remains detained in Mexico. 

Artist Ernesto Yerena Montejano, known for his podcast and artwork with Shepard Fairey (Obama "Hope" design / OBEY), presented a design for a poster that was later signed by Ferrera, Valderrama and Williams. Montejano chose to create art and find peace by crafting a design featuring flames and fists flanked by golden arches of altruism. 

ARTIST ERNESTO YERENA MONTEJANO PRESENTS CUSTOM POSTER DESIGNED FOR HARNESS / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

ARTIST ERNESTO YERENA MONTEJANO PRESENTS CUSTOM POSTER DESIGNED FOR HARNESS / SOURCE: NOWTHIS + HARNESS

 Diversity diffused through the room and everyone was unified by a singular mission: we are stronger together than we are apart.

The power of this mission persisted when panelist Matt McGorry ("Orange is the New Black" & "How to Get Away with Murder") spoke about the importance of coming together to rise above hate and inequality. He has received praise in the past for his stance on gender equality and recently joined forces with White People for Black Lives, a white anti-racist collective and activist project.

Attendees like Shahidi left the event feeling so inspired that they continued the conversation about Harness by using the hashtag #IWillHarness. For Shahidi's #IWillHarness post, she penned a piece of prose and posted it on her Instagram where it garnered the attention of outlets like Refinery 29

"...Carpe Diem they say, but they don't know what it's like to be seized,"Shahidi stated. "They don't know what it's like to muster up all of the air in your lungs just to say, "I can't breathe."

Shahidi's spoken words were accompanied by an Instagram caption that featured sentiments about how, "the movement is undefined...forgets no one...and represents our collective humanity." Later she posted another photo supporting Cezares' cause demonstrating her solidarity with the rights of all people whether they came to this country from Iran (like her father) or México.

ACTRESS/ACTIVIST YARA SHAHIDI POSTS PHOTO OF  'I STAND WITH IMMIGRANTS' SHIRT  ON INSTAGRAM TO RAISE AWARENESS FOR GASTON CAZARES / SOURCE: YARA SHAHIDI

ACTRESS/ACTIVIST YARA SHAHIDI POSTS PHOTO OF  'I STAND WITH IMMIGRANTS' SHIRT  ON INSTAGRAM TO RAISE AWARENESS FOR GASTON CAZARES / SOURCE: YARA SHAHIDI

What will you create with the energy you harness? Share your insights with us at info@wetakenote.com or post on social media using the hashtag #IWillHarness.