“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead
For many around the globe, May 31 will likely hold trivial significance as the passing of another month; the fading of days chronicled on a calendar, stockpiled beside repetition, redundancies and rudimentary action. But for the community of San Bernardino, May 31 holds the ability to be a day of inspiration, opportunity and a deviation from the typical and the norm.
“I’ve actually never been to an event in San Bernardino quite like what I’m envisioning for this event,” said 22-year-old Michael Segura – San Bernardino Generation Now member, newly appointed San Bernardino Arts Commisioner and Director of Media for May 31’s CommUnity Fest.
The Cal State San Bernardino graphic design and fine arts major is just one portion of the well-oiled and politically conscious machine known as San Bernardino Generation Now. Formally founded in 2013, SBGN members have taken it upon themselves to be socially and politically active by closely engaging with the community, it’s political representatives and the land itself – organizing community clean ups among other commendable deeds.
The team is now extending their fight for communal betterment by coordinating CommUnity Fest – which is gearing up to be a one-stop-shop for local musical talent, yoga sessions, the live production of public murals and even a civic lounge to better aid in getting to know this year’s candidates in the state primary election; the crew has kind of thought of it all, but I’m not surprised.
Like Segura, SBGN is jam-packed with scholars whose specialized skills play key roles in keeping the unit on the road to progress and ultimate success.
Matt Greenleaf, 27, received his Bachelor’s in political science. His first attempt at exploring his passion for the intersections of legal policy and community empowerment came in the form of wanting to up-start a non-profit. Entangled in the tresses of his exploration of the local political scene, Greenleaf crossed paths with SBGN. “I just started going to meetings really,” notes Greenleaf. “I was concerned about San Bernardino, wanted to get involved and somehow, make an impact. You know, leave San Bernardino with it being better than when I came in.”
Luckily for us, Greenleaf and the entire SBGN team wield the gift of creative minds; ones that find value in the transformative, expressive and communal nature of art.
“Art inspires people and literally makes them think differently,” said Segura. “We’ve become so programmed to think standardly which does nothing for us.” “I love the way art can bring communities together,” said Jennica Billins, 28, head honcho and first chair coordinating May 31’s festivities. “Every time a mural is painted, people come out; they want to see it.”
Billins is the outwardly proud homeowner of San Bernardino’s UNITY house. Her residency inherits the name from a mural baring the word “UNITY” painted along one of her home’s outer walls. The 2013 work is the product of none other than members of her SBGN family.
While working with the group, Billins – an MFA recipient focused on public health – is happily putting her schooling to work. “I received my Masters in Public Health focusing on global public health. There are different forms of public health you can focus on, but global health is a lot about communal development and asks ‘how can we strengthen the community?’”
Whether it be through engaging it, enlightening it, stimulating it or just offering encouragement, the foundation for social change in San Bernardino has been accessed by simply asking the right question: How can we strengthen the community?
As May 31 creeps nearer and we prepare to watch May come to a conclusive close, remember the question and optimistically seek out examples of the answers hiding in the form of murals, disguised as humble community activism, and – but of course – camouflaged as a day at the park.
CommUnity Fest will take place May 31 between 10am and 6pm at Perris Hill Park in San Bernardino. All ages welcome and free for the whole family.