With generous funding support from the Fineshriber Family Foundation and several anonymous donors, the RFC convened the latest Carry it Forward Gathering last August. Twenty-three of our college age beneficiaries and three peer leaders, came from 11 states around the country and were joined by RFC staff and Board members.
Over the course of four days, attendees took part in art, dance, drumming, sports/adventure games and writing workshops. After getting to know each other, they also came together for “Tell Your Story,” a guided session allowing them to talk as a group about their lives as targeted activist youth or the children of targeted activists. The long weekend also offered social and unstructured time including a campfire, a concert by a Board member, and access to the recreational facilities at the college in western Massachusetts where the event was held.
About half of the participants had either been to an earlier RFC Family Gathering as children or a previous Carry it Forward Gathering for young adults. For others, it was their first time being with peers who shared common experiences from growing up within activist movements, despite very different personal circumstances.
The point of our Gathering program is to allow participants to explore their feelings through arts and other workshops, and through formal and informal discussions, while building community. According to the participants’ evaluations, our most recent Gathering met and surpassed these goals.
Attendees praised the powerful sense of connection among participants, and felt the workshops were meaningful and productive. One participant shared, “I felt like I belonged here and I could relate to everyone in some way, which is not that typical for me.” Another wrote, “I really enjoyed being among cool, passionate, resilient young people who came from diverse backgrounds but shared a common childhood exposure to activism. The solidarity and love between participants was amazing. Peer leaders were wonderful too!”
Other commenters told us the best part of the Gathering was, “Finding common ground with people of entirely different backgrounds,” and that, “Tell Your Story was such a powerful, emotional gathering and I was touched that people were so open and supportive.” Other respondents summed up the event by saying, “Thank you for the awesome, inspiring, beautiful, woke, full of love weekend!” and “It was so validating and moving to be in a space with other young people with similar life experiences to my own. We live in an exceedingly divided country, and to see so many races and religions unite over a shared commitment to love, social justice, and equity was beautiful and unlike other experiences I’ve had.”
Finally, after the event we also heard from some of the attendees’ parents, telling us how meaningful their children found the Gathering to be. One mom sent an especially passionate letter, excerpted here:
You have given [my children] more than just distractions, and opportunities. You have cared from afar and offered healing. Thank you. You organization is truly built on love that surpasses pain and devastation that each family works to overcome. This trip was soul-nourishing and connected them to their past in a kinder, gentler way and to people they truly feel connected to. Throughout the years you made our intense journey a bit easier when we had no resources and little hope. Thank you for loving my children, thank you for the hope and support.”
We, in turn, thank our donor community for continuing to make these vital Gatherings possible.