Sullivant Gardens Recreation Center
755 Renick St.
Columbus, OH 43223
Written and Photographed by Doreen Dawkins
Interview with Director David Brown
Tell me about your organization. Tell me about what you are doing out here today.
Harmony Project is a non-profit that brings people together across social, economic, geographic, cultural, religious, and political backgrounds. We get people together to recognize our differences. We don’t need to pretend that we are the same, because we are not. The beauty of this country is found in our differences. We bring people together through music. We don’t ask if you can sing, because it doesn’t matter what your voice sounds like. It just matters if you want to use your voice. That is a metaphor for the community. Some people’s voices are amazing, some probably never should have sung outside the shower, but when they all come together the weaker voices are lifted by the stronger voices. That is what community is all about. If you have more resources over here and someone over there has less, we need to share and figure this out to create balance. People think it is all about musical harmony. What it is really about is social harmony.
We started ten years ago today. Ten years ago, 100 people said I will sing in a concert, I will try to learn this music and I will volunteer some time. Now, we are generating 65,000 hours a year in volunteer service that is valued to the city at about 1.5 million dollars. We have 11,000 and 60 plus people singing in weekly programs. We are in a women’s prison, men’s prison, transitional housing facilities and 23 schools have students who participate in our programs. Our Monday night choir is 500 voices. Members are from every religion, every political opinion and every background you can imagine. All of those people, the inmates, the children, the formerly homeless, the men and women who are differently abled, every person in the Harmony program doesn’t have to pay a dime to participate in anything that they do. They don’t have to sell a ticket. They don’t have to pay a membership fee. They don’t even have to buy a tee shirt. They must give a certain number of hours in community service.
We put people from different zip codes together to work on purpose. Someone from Bexley, someone from Hillard, someone from the Linden area are all painting a mural together. We hope that they talk, get to know one another, engage and find something in common. The community benefits because we are getting stuff done. It is not about you being wrong and me being right. It is about us meeting where we are. It is “bs” when people say they don’t see color, or gay or that. You do and you should. I want you to look at me and see a gay man. I want you to look at someone and realize they are a Muslim, black, Democrat, or Republican. I want us to look at those things because that is part of who we are. It should not stop us from providing a soccer field for children or a playground being built on the south side. The kids don’t care if you voted for Hillary or Trump. They want a play ground.
Interview with Kyra Crook
Tell me about the Harmony project and why you are out here.
The Harmony project is amazing. David Brown put up posters requesting 100 people to sing whether they could sing or not. It worked. Ten years later we are a crowd of well over five hundered, perhaps even a thousand. We are preparing for our next concert, which will be December 12, 2019. This choir works in the community. We come together to sing and to serve. Today the kids received gifts, and a new soccer net. We strike up joy wherever we go and we love it.
Sidebar: I love seeing Mifflin High School graduates volunteering and making a difference. (In case you haven’t figured it out that is the best public high school in central Ohio (and my alma mater). My blog, my choice).
My take: I’m in awe of the implementation of vision. The testimony is remarkable of the impact and growth they have experienced in 10 years. Harmony around music and harmony around the human race. Everyone I observed appeared to have a great time. Everyone dancing and interacting together. It appeared that the volunteers enjoyed serving as much as the participants enjoyed receiving. In my mind, this project puts two of the classes that I am a member to shame from a unity and harmony perspective. Black women and Christians, we need to do better.