Light Up The Night was a successful neighborhood event focused on unity and race amity in Fort Wayne Indiana. The organizers were overjoyed that more than 100 people from a variety of backgrounds attended. The original idea came from a Bahá’í who lives in the neighborhood. The gathering was hosted by the Harrison Hill Neighborhood Association on July 11, 2020. Harrison Hill is a richly diverse area which has been identified as a “focus neighborhood” by the Fort Wayne Local Spiritual Assembly.
The evening program included prayers, live music, African drumming, and a statement about race amity. The statement was crafted using excerpts from the National Spiritual Assembly’s beautiful “Statement to the American People on the Elimination of Racial Prejudice” dated June 2020. As people may recall, this letter was sent following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The event was a call to unity and community building as part of the ongoing teaching efforts of individual Bahá’ís residing in the neighborhood. The idea began with one resident Bahá’í talking to select neighbors, but the enthusiasm quickly spread and was embraced by many others offering volunteer services and participation. This resulted in a neighborhood effort of people from all backgrounds, not merely the individual initiative with which it began.
The event took place in a parkway area with streets blocked off to accommodate social distancing and those attending were asked to wear masks. The culmination of the evening was a Bahá’í prayer for unity followed by the lighting of candles with India Arie’s “I Am Light” playing over the sound system. There was a profound quiet while the prayer was read, and the lighting of the candles was a symbol of how we each can bring light into the world.
The organizers live streamed the event on Facebook for those who were unable to attend in person. Many photos were taken of those attending in person that evening and included a nucleus of Bahá’í friends who are always ready to support and accompany. These Bahá’í s can be seen in the attached photos (although they may not be recognized behind their masks). A video of the event is available on the Harrison Hill Neighborhood Association Facebook page and can be viewed in its entirety or in sections by anyone interested — facebook.com/fwhhill.
Prior to the event a Bahá’í family in the neighborhood had yard signs created with the phrase, “we are … waves of one ocean, leaves of one tree, flowers of one garden.” Multiple neighbors embraced this message and put the signs in their yards. The yard signs can still be seen as people drive through the neighborhood.
The resident Bahá’ís have followed up with activities including driveway firesides and devotionals featuring African drumming with other core activities being planned. A new event, Sidewalk Chalk Challenge, has just been launched for the Harrison Hill neighborhood for October 3. Participants will create sidewalk chalk art based on the theme Unity & Diversity. The Fort Wayne Bahá’ís hope this focus neighborhood will continue to “light up the night!”
Gayle Bevill-DaDa, Fort Wayne