Thank you to the nearly 850 people who gathered in Long Beach on Friday, March 8th, to celebrate the power of diversity and the vision of a loving and compassionate community. Our breakfast program was co-chaired by Darick Simpson and Rev. Petra Malleis-Sternberg, pictured above with keynote speaker Christian Picciolini and CCEJ Executive Director Kimmy Maniquis.
Guests were greeted by lively music from Romero y Perez and the Westerly Middle School Band, and the program opened with a beautiful dance from Kutturan Chamoru Foundation dancers. Jennifer Kumiyama gave a stirring performance of “I’m Here” from the musical, A Color Purple, earning a standing ovation.
Representatives from the Brahma Kumaris, Baptist Christian, Islamic, and Lucumi faiths gave a multifaith Invocation with the theme of “transformation.”
Keynote speaker Christian Picciolini shared the story of how he became a leader in the White Power movement of the 80’s and 90’s as a teenager, and later severed ties with hate groups. “I met people who were Jewish, black, Muslim, and gay who talked to me,” he said. “I got compassion from people who I least deserved it from. I realized I had much more in common with those people than those who hated.” Christian challenged the audience to find people “who are not deserving of your compassion” and help them overcome their hate, as others helped him.
As a closing, Rabbi Steven Moskowitz encouraged guests to “pledge to amplify our power of compassion for all whom we might meet so that we might draw each other closer, and be strangers no more,” and Cantor Sara Hass led the guests in singing “Ken y’hi ratzon,” a hymn of justice and healing.
The day before the breakfast, Christian met with more than 50 youth, parents, and community members for a dialogue about his journey out of the white supremacist movement and his work to assist hundreds to do the same. CCEJ’s Building Bridges for Youth program coordinated the event and hosts year-round activities to help young people from different cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds build positive relationships and resolve conflicts non-violently. Click here to learn more about CCEJ’s work with youth.
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