June 21st 2011, the 5th annual Day of Reflection
The cross-community organization with whom I work, Healing Through Remembering, hosted a special event honoring the Day of Reflection in the Linen Hall Library in downtown Belfast. The event was organized by Kate Turner, Aongus O’Keeffe, and myself. HTR describes the annual event as:
a day to acknowledge the deep hurt and pain caused by the conflict, to reflect on our own attitudes, on what more we might have done or might still do, and to make a personal commitment that such loss should never be allowed to happen again. This follows positive evaluations of the Day of Private Reflection held each year since 2007.
Significant changes were made to the day this year. The Day was changed from “Private Reflection” to “Reflection” to reflect the changing nature of the initiative, from a focus on persuading individuals to privately take time to reflect to expanding to a broad range of community group-led opportunities. There were over two dozen organizations that honored the Day of Reflection this year, with opportunities ranging from group discussions to readings to exhibitions. The goal for this year’s DoR was to accumulate enough public rapport that Educational Institutions are inspired to include themselves in future Days of Reflection, which will then pave the way for a government-sanctioned official Day of Reflection. Not compulsory, but sort of along the lines of Memorial Day. Some of this was not explicitly stated to me, but it’s not too difficult to figure out the long-term ambitions of the project.
My role in this year’s Day of Reflection was to coordinate the project, acting as a liason between the several parties involved, as well as setting up the event itself at the Linen Hall Library. We had photos donated for exhibition by two renowned photographers of the Troubles, masks donated by Suzi and her women’s group, which tell their personal stories, books available for perusing, singer/songwriter Gerry Creen on guitar periodically, with several poetic and literary readings throughout. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a Thought Wall, on which people posted yellow leaves bearing their thoughts.
Putting all of this together was really engaging and honestly a lot of fun. I met with the curators of the Linen Hall Library as well as Lawrence, a field worker/aesthetic consultant, Nikki, our PR agent, and Patricia, the annual evaluator of the DoR to set it all up. Kate has got a ton of stuff going on, basically because she’s the bee’s knee’s in the national realm of truth and reconciliation, so she basically only set aside about six days to put together the DoR. This meant that my role was to keep everyone on track and keep things rolling smoothly. I was pretty sure I had everything under control, but every time I met with Kate and Lawrence, I had to second guess myself. “Why are they so stressed out? Should I be stressed out too?!” Nope, it was fine.
Everything came together quite nicely, with an opening attendance of over 50 people, and a total of around 100. People were very appreciative of the opportunity, and it was one of the highlights of my engagement here in Northern Ireland. This is something that I will definitely take with me moving forward with my life.