Let Equality Bloom: Activism Festival Urges Civic Engagement

By NORA PEACHIN

Representative Kiah Morris was a keynote speaker at Sunday’s event. Wayne Fawbush

BURLINGTON – From noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, Burlington’s Old North End was consumed by the Let Equality Bloom Activism Festival. Organized by a team of Women’s March Vermont volunteers, the well-attended festival included everything from activism trainings and workshops to live music and a drag performance.

The festival’s organizers aimed to introduce young people to social justice movements in Vermont and across the country and spark excitement for voting.

Women’s March Vermont leader and festival organizer Grace Meyer explained that the event planners wanted the festival to “draw different folks who might not be as interested in a march or rally,” especially young people. 

Young volunteers were also involved in the planning of the event. Mackenzie Murdoch, a 19-year-old Women’s March Youth Organizer, first began working with Women’s March Vermont and for March for Our Lives last year and has been helping plan this festival for the past six months. She is one of the youngest organizers on the team. 

“[It’s] so cool seeing so many people of different ages excited about getting young people involved [in activism],” Murdoch said. 

Speakers included Democratic Vermont gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist and outgoing Bennington Representative Kiah Morris. Murdoch expressed her excitement over Morris’ speech in particular.

“She’s been getting a lot of hate and her family has been targeted a lot by racist groups and people,” Murdoch said. “Being able to see all the things she’s done despite the hate and negativity she’s receiving is so inspiring. I’m looking forward to hearing her speak about that.”

Meyer also discussed the importance of Morris’ speech at the event. “Racism is something we’re very focused on right now,” Meyer said. “It is extremely evident in the case of Kiah Morris, who is unable to continue serving as a Vermont state representative for fear of safety because of threats her family has been receiving.”

The festival also attempted to address issues such as transphobia, voter suppression and classism with a wide array of workshops offered throughout the afternoon. Participants were invited to visit a selection of related organizations from the area, which set up tables around the workshops.

The organizers hoped to encourage festival-goers to become involved with different organizations. “People can get a real feel for the organizations and maybe even find something they’re passionate about,” Meyer said.

The Let Equality Bloom Festival brought together art, food and music with activism, voter registration and discussion of relevant issues. It also aimed to celebrate all that has been accomplished by activists, and encourage future activists to get involved. Meyer hopes that participants left feeling inspired to get involved and empowered to vote.

“The last election could’ve been incredibly different, had people actually voted,” Meyer said. “Empowering people to get out there and vote is so important to our state and national governments.”

Murdoch shared a similar hope for festival attendees. She hoped that the festival would help diminish political apathy.

“[Election participation] has a daily impact whether people are aware of it or not. Especially for marginalized groups of people, voting is so important,” Murdoch said. “We’ve seen so much hate and discrimination in the country… not voting is leading us to where we are now.”

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