Some of our Enduring projects

Curious Community: Sharing Stories and Strengthening Roots

Tree of Life Complete_edited.jpg

With a goal of helping our community find the strengths to cope with difficulties, Ashland is United developed and organized two connected “Curious Community” virtual events in Spring 2020. Using a “tree of life” as a visual anchor, AiU aimed at reimagining our connection to the community – as individual trees in a diverse yet interconnected community – where aspects of oneself shaped by the past help us actively cultivate the kind of person we want to be moving forward.

 

The first event was titled “Curious Community: Building Bridges One Story at a Time. The second follow-up event was titled “Curious Community Discussion: Building Stronger Roots for Tough Times.” These stories helped us see commonalities, but also learn about experiences different from our own. It is interesting to note that Ashland residents came from varied backgrounds such as Canada, England, Italy, Ukraine, Zambia, India, Uganda, and various regions of the US including the Appalachian heartland.

Ashland's Virtual Table

Our stories around food are a great path to understanding different cultures and backgrounds. Ashland is United’s past events, “Breaking Bread Together” and “Baking Bread Together,” have proven that food brings people together. To continue this theme of food and connection, Ashland is United (AiU) held a virtual discussion and dinner event over Zoom: “Ashland’s Virtual Table: Join Us for a Meaningful Meal,” on Sunday, Sept. 13th, '2020.

Participants were encouraged to prepare a favorite dish from their culture or family to eat while engaging in the virtual discussion. In the introductory round, names and recipes were discussed in order to help participants learn a bit about each other and their backgrounds. When sharing names, it became clear that in many cultures, names are chosen to honor a relative. Some names came from religious texts or were derived from mythological characters. Prepared meals included Polish golumpki (stuffed cabbage), Mexican chicken fajita, Indian rice pilaf and chicken kofta, Italian gnocchi, and Jewish noodle kugel. There was even a suggestion of “if I could I would have brought ham steak and corn and peach cobbler.” 

Even with the limitations of a Zoom gathering, the participants were able to share personal stories that highlighted their cultural traditions and to discuss experiences in talking with those who were, on the surface, different than themselves. Throughout the 1½ hour event, participant remarks revealed the common theme that first assumptions are often incorrect and that given the opportunity to interact with those from different backgrounds, “people can really surprise you” with their positivity, generosity, and kindness. Greenstein highlighted that participants also noted that “when you come to these new experiences with an open mind, wonderful and unexpected benefits can happen.”

In the wake of the national, and now global, events surrounding the death of George Floyd and other acts of anti-Black racism that have shaken many to the core, Ashland is United partnered with several other community groups for: 

Together At Home We Stand Against Racism.

 

Given the situation with Covid-19, congregating in person to demonstrate for many was not a safe option. To address that concern while still providing an opportunity for those who want to give voice to their thoughts and feelings, a network of community groups worked together to develop the Together At Home We Stand Against Racism event held on Saturday June 13th.

We asked participants to step out of their homes and:

  • Display a safe form of illumination

  • Carry a sign with an anti-racist message that expressed how they will promote an active anti-racist community

  • Play or sing music of their choice that was reflective of the values of the event.

 

Thank you to all who participated and lent their voices. This virtual vigil was a small, symbolic, but important first step that signified that we as a community commit to stand up as allies and advocates for our fellow residents and to continue the work to make Ashland a safe and welcoming community for all.
 

Now we all must take those steps we pledged to take to move our community toward greater inclusivity and equity.

 

What will you do next?