By Raiza Giorgi
John Ormand and his family decided to turn a bad situation into a good one after a sign in his yard was vandalized. He didn’t realize just how many people were wanting to join in and was pleasantly surprised when more than 200 people showed up to the Unity SYV: Rally for Inclusion Oct. 18 at Solvang Park.
“We had a sign in our yard vandalized and we were really shaken that someone would go to those lengths to destroy our property,” Ormand said. “I am not new to acts like this, but my wife and daughter have never experienced anything like it, and we decided to do something about it.”
Together with a few friends and neighbors like Sarah Gonzalez and Jessy Verkler, they decided to put their energy into something positive and hopefully their rally is not the first, but rather the reason to spark conversation and understanding.
The rally was an opportunity for people to come together and talk about all sorts of difficult topics such as diversity, racism and inclusion, and how people in the Santa Ynez Valley can unite to make the area a better place.
Speakers included Pastor Chris Brown of Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang, Rev. Randall Day of St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church and Rav Debi Lewis from the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community.
“I choose inclusion, I choose tolerance, I choose unity,” Lewis said at the rally. “I want you to look around at the children here and what are you going to tell them you were doing in this time, in this place? They are watching.”
Event goers were excited to also have a surprise live performance by Grammy-winning singer Pink, (Alecia Moore) who lives in the valley.
“We are different here in the valley,” Gonzalez said. “There really is this little bubble that keeps us safe for the most part from hard topics and issues such as these, but we aren’t immune, and we shouldn’t look the other way when incidents happen.”
She added this event was not about politics, but rather how we can put aside differences and understand we all have different stories to tell.
“The past few months have been hard on everyone for many reasons whether it’s from COVID-19 and all of its affects like distance learning, depression, job loss to conversations of race.” Gonzalez added. “We just wanted to make our presence known that we call our community to recognize we are all one, and should be inclusive of everyone.”
The poignant moments for Gonzalez and Ormand were that the kids stood up and did a Call To Action, asking the community to be better examples of what community is.
“My kids are darker skinned and we have had those hard conversations in our house that no one should be judged because of what they look like or where they come from,” Gonzalez added.
She said with the plethora of negative news that is divisive, people should actively seek out good stories like valley local Vashti Wilson and her daughter Madison who are creating a line of multicultural crayons. (See our Oct. 20 cover story at www.santaynezvalleystar.com).
“People like Vashti and Madison are really changing the world and doing something great,” Gonzalez said. “We should be celebrating what makes us different and understand that sometimes growth comes from the sticky parts and hard conversations.”
While there aren’t any dates set for another inclusion rally, Gonzalez said they are working to do more in the future and they want to highlight several groups in the valley that are starting the work like Inclusion SYV and the SYV Community Action Alliance and businesses like ONEderChild in Solvang that promote diversity with a selection of books that are geared for all ages.