Huntington, Ind. — The Harmony Initiative Task Force has released the first in a series of short documentaries about life in Huntington County. The film features a multiracial couple, André and Kristie Laird, and their life together in the predominantly white community.
Harmony Initiative Task Force members say the purpose of the film series is to show what unites us rather than what divides us.
“While exploring diversity, these films will tell the story of the Huntington community —what we all hold in common, regardless of our differences,” said Kyle Hamilton, president and general manager of the Offertory Solutions Division of Our Sunday Visitor Inc.
“The films ask residents of Huntington County to share with us their answers to the big-picture questions of life: What do you hold dear? What does community mean to you? What are your dreams for the future?” said Trace Hinesley, director of special programs for the Huntington County Community School Corporation.
André Laird, who appears in the first film with his wife, Kristie, said that he was interested in participating in the documentary project in order to help dispel myths about Huntington County. His own experience here shows the interconnectedness of the community and erodes stereotypes.
Born in Jamaica, Laird met his wife when they were students at Huntington University. He now works as a reporter and photographer for the Huntington County TAB. Laird jokes that he knows his family stands out. According to census data, 97.5 percent of Huntington County residents are white.
“Community, in my definition, means partnership. It means relationship. It means togetherness. It means working together, not just for personal benefit but for the benefit of the entire group,” Laird said in the film. “If we have an open mind to learn from other people, I think that starts the process of being a more welcoming community and shaking that stigma that a lot of people have about Huntington and its past.”
The documentary was filmed and directed by Anthony Frederick, a senior at Huntington University pursuing a major in digital media arts (film production). In addition to Hamilton and Hinesley, Harmony Initiative Task Force members Sue Wilhelm of Victory Noll Center and Michael Howell of the Huntington County Community Foundation provided guidance for the film’s development.
Howell had high praise for the young filmmaker.
“Anthony Frederick created a masterpiece! It certainly fits the message of the Harmony Initiative Task Force and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration,” Howell said. “We hope it will be viewed through screenings at our local churches, business, schools and service clubs.”
“Eventually, we would like to tell more stories through additional documentaries,” said Wilhelm. “For example, we would like to tell the stories of an elderly, life-long resident of Huntington County. We would like to tell the story of a representative of the Miami Nation. We would like to tell the story of a Victory Noll sister. All of these voices, together, help tell the story of Huntington County.”
The Harmony Initiative Task Force is a volunteer organization established in 2008 by local civic leaders representing Huntington’s businesses, schools, churches, government, law enforcement and service organizations. Its purpose is to advance the Huntington City Council’s mission statement, which states in part: “We recognize our citizens as our most valuable resource. We acknowledge the people who live and work in our city as our greatest assets. Their ethnic, economic and religious diversity provides the strength that holds our community together. … The City of Huntington, Indiana, is a community of civility and inclusion, where diversity is honored and differences are respected.”
Keith Reynolds, senior pastor of Fairhaven Mennonite Church in Fort Wayne, will present the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day address at Huntington University. The program will begin at 11:30 a.m. on January 21, 2013, in the Merillat Centre for the Arts’ Zurcher Auditorium. The program is designed for the entire community. The public is invited to attend.
Raised in Chicago, Reynolds graduated from Elim Bible Institute with a major in Biblical Studies and from Southwestern Christian Seminary with a masters degree in Leadership. He resides in Fort Wayne with his wife, LeeAnn and their six children: Anisa, Isaiah, Alianna, Gabrielle, Elijah, and Nevaeh.
Reynolds says his life’s ambition is to “love Jesus more intimately and faithfully.” After ministering to youth and young adults for twelve years, he now serves as Senior Pastor of Fairhaven Mennonite Church located in Southeast Fort Wayne. He has also served as an adjunct instructor of public speaking at Huntington University.
The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day address at Huntington University is presented in collaboration with the Harmony Initiative.
The world flags on display today along Jefferson Street during the Harmony Feast are flown in honor of the international students at Huntington University living in our community. We welcome you to the city and your “home away from home” during your studies here!
The Third Annual Harmony Feast will be held Friday, September 14 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend this event which will be located in a large tent near PNC Bank in Huntington Plaza Shopping Center across from Kriegbaum Field.
The Harmony Feast marks the observance of Harmony Day in Huntington County. Harmony Day is an outreach of the Harmony Initiative, an organization of local volunteers dedicated to appreciating and recognizing the contributions from people of all backgrounds, that make our community a great place to live, to grow and to prosper.
The Harmony Feast mini food court, celebrating Huntington County cultures, will offer food by purchase of tickets from a variety of area food vendors. Over 400 people enjoyed the celebration last year by purchasing food at the feast. Tickets will be $1 each and it will require one to three tickets to purchase one food item.
Inside the tent those in attendance will find several tables featuring food vendors from Huntington County offering American, Mexican, Italian, German, Chinese, Native American and a selection of other foods. The tickets are purchased upon entrance to the tent to select the foods. Coffee D’Vine will take tickets for beverages.
Tables will be available to sit and enjoy dinner while the Huntington North High School homecoming parade passes by. Boogie Down Dee-Jays will provide musical selections. The parade will be followed by the traditional homecoming football game at Kriegbaum Field.
Sponsorships for the Harmony Feast are available and can be discussed by calling the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce at 356-5300.
The first graduates of Huntington University’s Horizon Leadership Program will receive their degrees during commencement exercises on May 12. Congratulations to Logan Placencia of Auburn, Ind., Evianna Monroe of the Bronx, N.Y., Christopher Burton of Rock Island, Ill., and Shar’Niese Miller of Fort Wayne, Ind.
Victory Noll Center will host a Poverty Simulation on Wednesday, May 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. The experience is designed to help participants begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month. It is a simulation, not a game. The object is to sensitize participants to the realities faced by low-income people. Take a few hours to put yourself in the shoes of someone living in poverty and understand what it’s like. Learn what you can do to make a difference.
Presented in partnership with Karen Hinshaw of the Purdue Extension of Huntington County.
There is no cost, but registration is required by April 25.
Harmony Initiative Task Force chair Blair Dowden was presented with the Andringa Award for Advancing Racial Harmony by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities on February 3 in Washington DC. Full story…