How do you sum up 35 years in a single night? How do you reflect back and look forward in the span of four hours? On Saturday, October 20, Grassroots International did just that.
Nearly 200 people joined us at UMass Boston’s Campus Center ballroom for our 35th Anniversary gala. But as Tarso Luis Ramos, a former board member, recounted, it was more like a family reunion.
Our donors, including some who supported us from the very beginning like Alice Rothschild, brought their solidarity and stories. Allies, like Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Boston Palestine Film Festival, brought their warm greetings. New faces brought in new energy and made new connections with Grassroots and movements around the world.
Our partners brought something too. They represented the struggles we’ve stood with the longest as well as new friends and allies we’ve made along the way. They made the spiritual themes of the night concrete. They embodied resistance, resilience and power.
We held a community panel just before the gala to hear from them. Ozawa Bineshi Albert from Indigenous Environmental Network spoke of their work to stop U.S. pipelines and climate devastation. Alaa Hammouda from Gaza Community Mental Health Program talked about strength under occupation. Sofía Robles from Mixe Peoples’ Services shared how Oaxacans are organizing to defend their culture and build a better future.
The 35th Anniversary celebration came while crisis and polarization are ripping across the world. Amid coups, a climate emergency and the rise of the far right, it’s easy for paralysis to grip our side. But Alaa’s defiant message from Gaza was a shot in the arm for us all. As we look reality in the face, we must hold onto hope and keep standing strong.
“We always have hope for a better Gaza. Our hope is making us stronger,” Alaa told the crowd during our community panel. “We try to plant hope in our children, to teach them to fight for their rights and not give up. If we give up, who will continue this fight?”
A staff-produced video shown during the main event echoed the sentiment. “35 Years of Resistance, Resilience, and Power” looked back at the stories of our partners and allies, and forward to the future world we’re building together. “Powerful” was the comment I heard again and again for the rest of the night.
But to sustain ourselves for the struggles ahead, we need more than defiance. Community is just as important. And the gala expressed that in spades.
We had a photobooth, where families, friends and comrades goofed off even as we raised solidarity fists. We had great music from Zili Misik, with all ages getting down on the dance floor. We made new friends over food and drink serviced by UMass Boston staff.
But amid the fun, none of us lost sight of the future. Executive director Chung-Wha Hong, and current and former board members, honored particular contributions from partners and donors. Sofía Robles presented Grassroots with a beautiful cross-stitch in the Mixe tradition which she brought with her from Oaxaca. She and other speakers shared information about ongoing resistance as well as new initiatives that Grassroots International is supporting.
Prior to the event, returning donor and former board chair Rev. Devin McLachlan pledged to match the first $10,000 raised during the night. To help reach that goal, Tarso and outgoing board member Lauren Jacobs asked for donors to step up, as they have for so many years. Hands shot up, grasping checks, as people yelled out how much they would contribute to the struggle. From that room full of wonderful family and friends, more than $16,000 was raised at that moment.
Once Devin heard about the success of his pledge, he increased his matching donation to $18,000 to round it out to a perfect $35,000 for Grassroots’ 35th anniversary. “The world is being a stupidly awful place out there right now, and I’m immensely grateful for what Grassroots International continues to do,” he told Carol Schachet, Director of Development and Communications, after the event.
Thanks to all our attendees, we were able to infuse additional support for grassroots movements. From Palestinians standing up for justice, to Indigenous activists defending land and climate, every dollar counts for the tasks ahead. We are grateful for all the love, support and solidarity expressed over the course of the night, and throughout the decades. Onward to another 35 years!