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.
By: Ashley Coffey
September 29, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
What will you create with the energy you harness? Share your insights with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post on social media using the hashtag #IWillHarness.