Let the Circle Be UNBROKEN

“Let the Circle Be UNBROKEN” is the theme of an event at the Downtown Library by the Porter’s Youth Center on Saturday, December 13. This will be a celebration of community coming together, which will feature Helen Warren, Annie Orlando and guest speaker Dr. Zoharah Simmons. The event is the brainchild of community activist Faye Williams, and a means to heal the rift that occurred in the past City election cycle.

The event will run from 2pm to 4:30pm, with potluck refreshments to include salads, fruits, rice and peas, beans and rice and sweet potato pie. In Annie’s words: “Running for elective office is many things. It’s an honor, a privilege and a great responsibility. As a candidate it was an amazing and sometime brutal experience.

But it is just about impossible for anyone to run for office and succeed without the help of a team of loyal volunteers and lots of supporters, who take elections seriously and put themselves on the line to help candidates get elected. The downside of political activism is that getting someone elected is a very adversarial process. In order to convince people to support us in 3 minutes or less, we have to put labels and tags on our opponents in order to define them. In the process, we forget that under all the labels we’ve stuck on each other are human beings.

“One of the realizations I made during the campaign was that left, right and in the middle the one thing everyone had in common was their passion and love for Gainesville. During the course of the campaign, I met and became friends with many incredible people who I probably would have never gotten to know otherwise. One of these incredible people is Faye Williams. Faye not only talks about being peace, she lives, eats and breathes it. Faye has worked tirelessly to bring our community back together and is the organizer of the December 13th event at the Downtown Library for the Warren and Orlando campaigns.

“Along with Faye Williams, Joe Courter, Joni Ellis, Carol Thomas and Helen Warren, I hope that everyone associated with both campaigns can attend and put aside the politics for a few hours and celebrate the goodness that is in all of us.”

And in Helen’s words: “The idea for Annie and me to get together and smooth over ruffled feathers was suggested by Faye Williams, a true peacemaker in town. She led the effort to meet on friendly terms and allow us to build a bridge that wasn’t possible during the campaign.

“As common in local campaigns, there was a division between the many circles of friends that connect on other common grounds in Gainesville. Disagreements and misunderstandings multiplied as Annie and I and our supporters tried to differentiate our positions on problems facing our city.

“Although we did not know each other before the campaign, we both had friends who knew both of us. In this town there is a tight overlap of community circles with the musicians, dancers, environmentalists, and parents of children. I often refer to Kevin Bacon’s 6 degrees of separation between all people. Gainesville is such an interconnected community, it seems as if this notion collapses to a smaller separation of two degrees, and that is only if you are new in town!

“It was not long after the campaign started that I was finding good friends feeling uncomfortable with having to make a choice between two of their friends.

“I often felt an awkwardness when out in public, sometimes even feeling like some friends were avoiding conversation with me. Some asked me outright why I felt the need to run in this race against Annie. There were couples who had houses divided and placed a sign for each of us in their yard.

“Faye was able to have a conversation with both Annie and me and suggest that we get together over lunch. After two such meetings, and good food, those who participated with the meetings thought that our two campaign communities would do well to have a some kind of healing celebration. A big part of the conversation between Annie and me was about the desire to be able to talk with each other when in public, and to do so without rancor.

“The first time I met Annie was at a Green Drinks event, and we talked about some of our shared global concerns. It is time to find a way back to common interests and ground to move forward on the issues that are important to our city. We do love this place and the people who also call it home. That is a good place to start a conversation.”

The December 13 event is sponsored by the Porter’s Youth Center, Alachua County Peace Coalition, Bailey Learning and Arts Collective, The Circle of Love, Civic Media Center, Green Party, Occupy Gainesville and Wild Iris Books.

Faye is looking for volunteers to help with this event. Please contact her at the Porter’s Youth Center at 352-792-6020.

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