With the nation divided and national conversations swirling with negative discourse, members of the Ithaca College community are looking to make a positive impact. Junior Chris Biehn is organizing “Believe in Love,” an event aiming to unite Ithaca residents through community service and a large gathering on the Ithaca Commons on April 22.
Biehn works with the Love Button Global Movement as an ambassador. The Love Button Global Movement is a non-profit dedicated to spreading love and kindness throughout the world through community service and support services. The organization was featured prominently during the halftime concert at last year’s Super Bowl. Biehn said he decided to bring the movement to Ithaca in hopes of spreading the organization’s message around the country.
As a member of the Protestant Christian community at IC, Biehn said his faith was the driving force behind his decision to organize the event. The event is meant to bring people of various faiths, backgrounds and ethnicities together, he said.
“It’s [the event] all about promoting unity during a divided time,” Biehn said. “The country is the most divided that it’s been in my lifetime, and I think that this is an important opportunity to bring people together.”
The event will begin with participants volunteering at various organizations around Ithaca, then performing “random acts of kindness” — which can include helping community members or assisting local business — and later convening on the Commons, where there will be musical performances, speakers and celebrity appearances.
“We want people of every age, race, religion, sexuality and social class to come together and unite to put loving one another to center stage, especially at a time when our nation needs it,” says the event's Facebook page.
The event will feature around eight speakers, one of whom will be Love Button co-founder, Dr. Habib Sadeghi. Biehn said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick will also make a speech, and Emmanuel Kelly, a former competitor on the popular show “The X-Factor” will perform. Biehn is also reaching out to various celebrities to make appearances.
“This event is unique in the regard that we are morphing all these social justice causes — things like love and race, mental health, religion, disabilities, poverty — all these different topics, we’re going to have speakers addressing them all,” he said.
The event’s Facebook page currently has around 800 people who plan to go, with another 1,500 people interested in the event. Biehn said he’s hoping the event can draw a few thousand people.
“I think we should define success as we love what we do,” he said. “So if we don’t have the numbers we were expecting or if it rains, it’ll still be meaningful.”
The Believe in Love organizers are partnering with various organizations around Ithaca, including a coed service fraternity at Cornell University, Alpha Phi Omega. By working with APO, Biehn is hoping they’ll be able to attract a few hundred volunteers for the day.
Biehn said the number of organizers for the event has quickly grown. Several Ithaca College students are helping to organize the event, as well as people from the Cornell community and local residents. Biehn said there are now several committees working to organize everything from celebrity appearances to volunteers.
“It’s been a journey, and it’s not over. At the same time, I’m encouraged and confident the event will be a success,” Biehn said.