Miami says yes.
And during the 10 Days of Connection that took place May 1-10, this celebration invited strangers to come together across lines of difference and celebrate their shared humanity. By design, the event asks people to be comfortable with being a bit uncomfortable, and dive with a spirit of inclusion and curiosity about the full range of humanity in their city. Miami did a remarkable job of creating many mini moments of true connection, empathy, appreciation, understanding and yes, love, this time around.
This celebration is pretty unique – because since when did any city invite itself to engage with itself, in non-conventional – ahem…outside-the-comfort-zone – ways? Well, since late 2016, right here in Miami. That’s when leaders from six Miami organizations heard locals expressing a need for stronger relationships, deeper understanding, widespread kindness and increased empathy, and decided to take action!
Their brainchild is the 10 Days of Connection. And it’s awesome. It’s civic engagement, with a heart, and each year it grows. Along with the amazing list of co-founders and more than 100 members of the volunteer host committee, many of you, our local residents, have gotten full-in. They’ve stepped up to envision, promote, produce and host a connection event, attended by thousands of locals in the span of ten days. And these connection events included everything under the sun, again, a tribute to the wildly expansive imaginations of our South Florida citizens.
How about a tour of Little Haiti businesses, a spiritual non-denominational meditation, a film screening about the good, bad and patriarchy of politics? A Mother’s Day arts and crafts party, a beach cleanup, a workshop on accessibility and inclusion? A volunteer recruitment event for the Red Cross, a census info session, a run night for people with a range of physical abilities? A storytelling night with the Girl Scouts, a happy hour bringing together people with wildly different political views, an open invitation to experience Ramadan at the home of a local Muslim family?
The list goes on and on, it’s astonishing. Check out the full list of offerings here. And yes, this happened in Miami, and it’s getting stronger every year.
What I find remarkable about the the theme is that it’s so universal, it can be picked up and tailored to any point of view seeking a connection with a broader audience. The invitation is so broad, it allows people to dive in and shine light on a particular topic area they care about most, and use the opportunity as a platform to cultivate greater visibility and understanding about something they care about, while connecting with something bigger than all of us: all of us.
And this matters to us and to Miami. By being kind and loving loudly, human beings show we care. We are heard. We know we matter. And our hearts are uplifted, opened, changed. This is at the heart of what makes a healthy, thriving city: citizens who care. And events like those that are part of the 10 Days of Connection are how anyone can show they care and share that care - under the broad banner of connection. I’m personally wowed by all those from the host committee, the event hosts, sponsors, community leaders and to all the participants (more than 10,000 strong!) who embraced this initiative and brought themselves wholly, fully and authentically to these gatherings.
Thinking back on this year’s celebration, it’s no surprise that the event that touched me deeply was the 10 Days of Connection kickoff event, Jam Night at Wynwood Yard. This was no ordinary concert. Although I’ve had the honor of participating as a member of the host committee and as an event host for three years, this year it was particularly meaningful to accept Radical Partners’ invitation to officially co-produce the event with them, the Wynwood Yard and so many amazing partners and performers. It was very emotional and uplifting to see so many incredible performers come together as one, on stage, to celebrate our shared humanity through the language everybody speaks – music! Not only was this event the official public launch of my company Cultured Innovations, but also one of the final events at the much-beloved-by-the-community Wynwood Yard. What a fitting setting and vibe for this heart-opening performance - one that has done so much for Miami and its people!
Jam Night brought together second grade students to professional performers, singers, dancers, people with developmental disabilities, people struggling with homelessness, local arts education organizations and more to jam together with tons of very different music. The Yard’s stage saw a huge range of acts, ages, abilities and experience performing original and powerful songs, covers, Haitian jazz, R&B, pop, classical and Latin tunes and one of the highlights was an interactive jam session open to anyone from the audience who cared to join in. We capped the evening with a singalong version of “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, powerfully combining the audience of a few hundred people and the evening’s featured performers (except for the second and third graders, who needed to get home for homework and bedtime on a school night).
The audience and performers brought such amazing energy and many have expressed a sense that the music and connectedness are still echoing out there in the universe. Below are some images from that magical evening, along with quotes from those who performed.
I don’t know about you, but events – and movements – like this are what make me love Miami more every day. It’s the power with which people care, share and come together to be generous with their time, hearts and spirit.
Events like this matter. They help us stay inspired and hopeful about our future. Because of the people who call this magic city home.
Thank you, 10 Days of Connection Co-founders, Host Committee, sponsors, champions; Rebecca, Joan, Andreina, Nicky, Alia, Sarah, Leiva and the Radical Partners team; Della, Robyn, Cristian and the folks at The Wynwood Yard; Trevor Ditzler, UP! Music, Ramis Mercado, The Motivational Edge, Ana Paz, Koa Ho, LIVE! Modern School of Music, Anna Klimala, Joseph Burleson, Miami Music Project, Sammy Gonzalez, Zach Larmer, Cristian Acevedo, Young Musicians Unite, Brandon Cruz, Wendy Caraballo, South Florida Center for Percussive Arts, Anna Del Rio Chong, The WOW Center Miami, Chad Bernstein, Jono DeLeon, Guitars Over Guns, Gene Gayol, the Camillus House Hope Choir in partnership with Guitars Over Guns. Thanks also to everyone who helped lend their time, treasure and talent to this incredible initiative.
Stay tuned for next year’s 10 Days of Connection celebration, it’s sure to be bigger, better and with even more heart-opening events than ever. Perhaps you’ll even be inspired to be bold and host your own event.
Shout-out to the 10 Days of Connection Co-founders! Roberta Shevin (MCCJ), Nancy Ancrum (Miami Herald), Stephanie Sylvestre (The Children’s Trust), Rebecca Mandelman and Matthew Beatty (The Miami Foundation), Claudio Grillo and Tammy Klingler (United Way of Miami-Dade) and Rebecca Fishman Lipsey (Radical Partners), expanding to Broward County under the leadership of Cori Meltzer (CFM Mediation) and adding Leslie Miller Saiontz (Achieve Miami) and Claudia Grillo (University of Miami) to the leadership team alongside the founding group. The 2019 initiative is also supported by the Jewish Federation of Broward County and the Community Foundation of Broward.