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Wednesday, March 29, 2017 This Week's Paper

Be the Spark!

// Community prepares for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s May 13 appearance in Tacoma

Some of the most influential movements of our time start with a single idea: a spark of inspiration.

The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation’s Be the Spark movement challenges individuals to be a catalyst and do something – anything – they believe will contribute to a more positive community.

The foundation’s idea will culminate when Archbishop Desmond Tutu takes the stage at Tacoma Dome on May 13. In one of his final appearances in the United States, Tutu will be keynote speaker at the Be the Spark event.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights activist is a prime example of how one person’s actions can inspire change and build a better, safer, more productive community. “We hope Archbishop Tutu’s appearance becomes an indelible moment that brings hope and personal optimism for everyone in the community,” GTCF President and CEO Rose Lincoln Hamilton said.

The event will be the culmination of four years of work by the GTCF. The organization has spent time working with young people to gain a greater understanding of the struggles they face on a daily basis.

Since then, organizations throughout Pierce County have quietly participated in projects geared to strengthening the community in their own way. The Hilltop Artists in Residence have come together to create a piece of glass art to present to Tutu during his appearance. The nonprofit organization seeks to connect youth from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds, taking a special interest in high-risk students. Kathy Anderson, outreach and communications manager, said the mission of Be the Spark is closely aligned with the goals of Hilltop Artists.

Many Hilltop Artist students are learning about Archbishop Tutu for the first time. “We’ve been having some wonderful discussions about why he is such an important figure, and it has inspired them to become a part of this bigger movement in the community,” Anderson said. “There’s this community awareness now that is really inspiring.”

As part of the Be the Spark movement, students from cross-town rivals University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University have been working together with local high-school students with only one simple goal in mind: to listen.

For about a year, the universities have collaborated with GTCF to bring the messages of Be the Spark to students and faculty. College students have worked with youth at Washington, Lincoln and Foss high schools, listening to their concerns and the challenges they face in their own lives.

The premise of these discussions is to hear the voices of a diverse mix of youth to understand how they feel they can strengthen their own communities.

“Our goal in these dialogues is to help create a space for students to express themselves and find an audience to discuss the things they’re concerned about and gradually tap into their energy and creativity,” Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas said. “We want to refocus areas of anxiety into areas of alternative expression. We aspire to take the lessons of Archbishop Tutu and others working in the trenches and bring a sense of hope, possibility and unity to students.”

More than 14,000 people are expected to attend the event at Tacoma Dome, which also features performances by MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew winner Quest Crew. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, Craig Keilburger, founder of charity Free the Children, and William Gates, Sr. are slated to speak during a 650-person dinner prior to the event.

“This is a truly unique event not only because of the incredible fact that Desmond Tutu chose to delay his retirement to speak at the Tacoma Dome, but that are we gathering 14,000 people strong to talk about how we can built a better community,” Pacific Lutheran President Loren J. Anderson said.

The night will arguably be an event to remember for years to come, but Anderson believes it is the beginning of a movement that will only grow stronger in the future.

“We spend a lot of time dwelling on what’s wrong with our community,” he added. “This night will celebrate what is good and what is right, and it’s a great gift the foundation has given the community.”

Adult tickets range from $24-$42, and student tickets are $9-$15. Group rates and youth scholarships to the event are also available. For more information about Be the Spark, visit www.agreatertacoma.org.

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