If ever there was a time that called for harmony, surely that time is now. That makes the moment particularly apt for the revival of Team Harmony, a youth initiative that combats hate and encourages activism for social change. And several Rivers students are working to bring Team Harmony and its timely messages to their peers.
This evening, the organization will hold a virtual launch for the rebooted Team Harmony. As excitement and momentum built around tonight’s kickoff event, WCVB (Channel 5) reporter Erika Tarantal visited campus recently for a news segment on Team Harmony. She interviewed Kit Cunningham, director of community engagement, along with Max Meyerhardt ’21, Natalia Ramo ’22, and Ceanna Kinney ’21, about their involvement with the initiative. You can view the segment here.
Cunningham explains that Team Harmony, in its first incarnation, was founded in the ’90s by Lenny Zakim, the noted Boston activist who headed the Anti-Defamation League in New England. “The point of it was to bring kids together and talk about issues of hate,” says Cunningham. “There would be a mass rally, with political people and celebrities, at Boston Garden, and I used to take kids every year. It was a madhouse, with great energy, and we’d take that energy and address the issues.”
When Zakim died, in 1999, the initiative “kind of died with him,” says Cunningham. But last year, she says, with the increase in hate crimes, racial issues, and anti-immigrant sentiment, “People said, ‘It’s time to resurrect Team Harmony.’”
The plan was to hold an in-person rally, but COVID, of course, put an end to that idea. Instead, Team Harmony is proceeding on several fronts that nonetheless connect youth globally, despite pandemic prohibitions. Tonight, Oct. 20, at 7:00 Eastern time, the group will launch its web series, produced in partnership with Emerson College, titled “Hate: What are YOU going to do?” This will be the first of six live sessions held online throughout the year, exploring the state of hate worldwide. (To sign up to view the session, visit the organization’s website, teamharmonyfoundation.org.
) The series will feature a mixture of speakers and segments created by “youth reporters” from around the world.
Team Harmony will also offer a “Viral Institute for Activism” to high-school students, beginning in January. Enrollment is limited to 200, and participants will meet in cohorts to discuss and engage on the issues with peers from around the world.
Another Team Harmony effort is the creation of an “activist toolkit,” full of practical information and useful materials for youth organizers. The toolkit was created over this past summer, and Cunningham spearheaded the effort, working alongside Emerson professors. “It’s an online resource to help kids make more effective change,” Cunningham explains. “Kids come out all fired up and wanting to do something.” The toolkit gives them resources for making that happen; Cunningham says she expects it to be “a living document, one that’s going to evolve and change.”
After putting the toolkit in front of her students at Rivers to gather some feedback, Cunningham tapped a handful to engage further with the effort and to offer more in-depth input on the kit. Meyerhardt is one of the students helping to finalize the toolkit. He hopes to see Rivers students participate in Team Harmony, and he sees the toolkit as an accessible way to do that. “It would be great to see the whole student body reading through the toolkit to get inspired and hopefully take some action,” he says. “I’m very excited to see where this program goes.”
Ramos also sees the potential of the toolkit. “Team Harmony allows you to get educated about how to be an activist in different fields,” she says. “I think that is the first step for many people in helping to create change.”
Team Harmony’s goal is engaging and empowering youth activists—and those activists are themselves keenly aware of the urgency of such engagement. Says Ramos, “As young people today, we will be the ones who will make change happen, and Team Harmony allows us to do that.”