East Palo Alto Family Awareness Night

Last night I attended the 8th annual East Palo Alto Family Awareness Night. This year’s theme was “Wellness through Connection and Expression”. It was a great success with a fantastic turnout of people from the community. The EPA community once again demonstrated the power of bringing a diverse group of people together to share an experience that betters not only each individual but the community as a whole.

I had the priviledge of sharing a few remarks as part of the opening of the night’s activities and I reflected on how important this event, and the seven that preceded it, is in reducing stigma, increasing tolerance and acceptance and supporting people who are experiencing mental health and substance use challenges to find their place in the community. Measuring changes in stigma is a bit elusive but when you see what has transpired in a community such as East Palo Alto over the past 8 years it is apparent that a substantial change has occurred and that the community is better off for it.

Every year I look forward to attending this event but this year’s event was the best so far. With this year’s theme of “Wellness through Connection and Expression” attendees had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions such as: Exploring Wellness through Artistic Expression; Drumming; Mediation/Aromatherapy; and Youth Focused Perspectives. By the energy in the room, everyone was having a great time, but I have to say those of us who went to the Drumming workship had the best time. Mama Dee, her daughters, Rev. Senter ‘Uhila and others led us in dancing, laughing and singing.

As I told the group I wish I could clone this event and transport it throughout San Mateo (and California) to show how diversity is a strength, the power of community, and that individually and collectively we can make a difference.

EPA you have set a high bar, I cannot wait to see how you top this next year!!!