About a hundred people gathered for Affinity Community Services' annual kick-off event, Burning Bowl, Jan. 12 at Morgan Park United Methodist Church ( UMC ). This year's theme was Ever Ours: Resisting with Purpose to Thrive in the New Year.
Affinity Board Vice President Aisha Davis spoke about the important of this event and noted that this year will mark 24 years since the organization's founding.
Following Davis' remarks, Affinity Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon explained how grateful she is to have safe spaces like Morgan Park UMC to hold events like the burning bowl. She also highlighted the events and initiatives Affinity did throughout the past year.
During her keynote address, The Care Plan Owner Jackie Boyd said "you are the leader you have been waiting for. You are vital and filled with possibilities."
Boyd explained how Affinity has nurtured, supported and encouraged her over the years.
She spoke about her upbringing in a mostly white, Republican suburb and the fact that she did not come out and live her truth until she moved to Chicago for college. Boyd said she founded The Care Plan because she wanted to be her own boss and do something meaningful for a segment of the LGBTQ community that is overlooked, the aging population.
"Everyone deserves to be treated with respect at a minimum," said Boyd. "You deserve better, we all deserve better. You deserve to be educated and knowledgeable about your own health."
Davis also presented former Affinity Executive Director and current Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt with the Barbara "Robbie" Smith Award of Excellence for her many years of leadership and advocacy within Chicago's LGBTQ and Black communities.
Hunt said she was very moved and humbled to be receiving this award and spoke about what Smith ( who died in 2015 ) meant to her as a person and fellow Affinity leader.
"We all have the power to make our corner of the world a little better," said Hunt.
e. nina jay led a song of poetry tribute to the lives that were lost in 2018.
During the burning ceremony, attendees were invited to write down the negative things they wanted to leave behind in 2018 so they could move into the new year with confidence and a positive outlook. They used specially treated paper that was instantly burned with candles over steel bowls.
Attendees also wrote letters to themselves where they outlined their goals for the year. These letters will be mailed out to those who participated in the summer.
Like last year, the Drum Divas performed throughout the event.
Affinity Board Treasurer Jas Thurmond and Affinity Board President Anna DeShawn spoke about the importance of giving to the organization so the important work they do can continue while new Affinity board member Jovan Watkins led a discussion on what things the attendees would like Affinity to focus on in the coming year.