As the sun set on Saturday, hundreds of visitors and residents of Providence gathered at the Providence River to watch WaterFire, a community gathering and fire-lighting show that takes place regularly from summer to late. of autumn. The October 16 show was the first WaterFire to celebrate Blacks, Indigenous people and people of color.
The event was sponsored by Papitto Opportunity Connection, a Rhode Island nonprofit that aims to invest in “education, skills training and entrepreneurial ventures” for BIPOC communities across the state, according to the website organisation.
Besides the long tradition of lighting fires and the presence of many local food vendors, participants also had the chance to attend dance performances and learn about different initiatives sponsored by Papitto Opportunity Connection.
Peter Mello, Managing Director of WaterFire Providence, told the Herald he was grateful for the opportunity to host the “first BIPOC-themed WaterFire, where we celebrate Blacks, Indigenous people and people of color. in the arts, business and culture in the State of Rhode Island. “
“The WaterFire event has been going on for 25 years, and a big part of what happens at WaterFire is that we celebrate the best of Providence and Rhode Island – the people, the organizations, the culture, the history,” Mello said. . He noted that local organizations often use the platform provided by WaterFire “to engage their audience” with social issues relevant to the community, so they were “super excited to work with (Papitto Opportunity Connection) to create a special evening. “uplifting the members of the BIPOC community.
“Each event is a little different,” added Mello. This week’s WaterFire included performances by members of the BIPOC community and demonstrations of Capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts that integrates dance and music.
A number of local organizations were invited by Papitto Opportunity Connection and spent the evening educating passers-by on community initiatives to support residents of BIPOC Rhode Island. One of those organizations was Southside Community Land Trust, a non-profit organization that aims to help low-income neighborhoods in Rhode Island access organic food.
“We’ve been around for over 30 years,” said Chandelle Wilson, SCLT training program manager. “Our hope and goal right now is to support many immigrant and migrant farmers, people from other countries, and our hope is to connect more with the people of BIPOC.”
Throughout the event, SCLT discussed current food safety initiatives and distributed products such as “chayote squash, kale or collard greens, fresh lemongrass (and) dried onions” to community members in attendance, Wilson added.
“We’re here to connect people with a space to grow their own food,” Wilson said. All products distributed were “grown here in Providence and Cranston”.
Allison Cavallo ’24, who first attended WaterFire on Saturday, enjoyed the performances and the music. Considering it was the family weekend at college, “my mom dragged me a bit (to the event), but I’m having a great time,” she said.
“I was surprised at the amount of activities, tents and music,” she said. “I didn’t know they were doing all of this. I thought it was just fire and water, but I like the festival aspect.
Lisa Tutaj, a medical assistant from Chicago, attended the event as she visited her stepdaughter for the family weekend. “So far it’s been a lot of fun,” Tutaj said, pointing out how much she enjoyed one of the dance performances of the evening.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on WaterFire, and the first insights and performance since the onset of the pandemic took place on September 4 in honor of those who served as essential workers during the pandemic.
Mello noted that despite the challenges posed throughout the pandemic, events like Saturday’s WaterFire show the organization’s renewed commitment to supporting local arts. “It’s probably the most complicated fire we’ve done,” Mello said.
Mello remains confident that WaterFire will remain important in uniting community members in the weeks and years to come. “There is no special language you have to know to experience this. There is nothing intimidating, ”he said. “It’s a visceral experience.
This year’s WaterFire will take place every two weeks until December 4th.
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