Reporting by Leni Steinhardt, Zoe Gordon, Brianna Fisher, Dara Rosen, and Nyan Clark
On Sunday, Sept. 30 hundreds gathered at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Florida to attend the Actions for Change Food and Music Festival. Created by Doug and Jennifer Zeif, whose two children lost a best friend and teacher in the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day, the event supported the Change the Ref organization as well as Shine MSD. The festival intended to bring relief and healing through the arts as well as empower the youth generation to demand change, encouraging them to vote in midterms and other future elections.
The festival included over 30 top chefs in the nation, many with Michelin-star-rated establishments and prominent awards. Some came great distances to South Florida like Chef Olivier Vigneault who co-owns Yuzu in Quebec, Canada, and Chef Suzanne Goin, a James Beard award winning chef from Los Angeles who owns over three-fine dining restaurants. Other chefs came locally to support their South Florida neighbors, including Chef Masaharu Morimoto from the Morimoto Sushi Bar in Boca Raton and Chef Brian Mullins from Ms. Cheezious in Miami.
“It’s really humbling to be here today and see how resilient this community is after what it went through,” Chef Nate Norris of Zuni Café in San Francisco said. “To be here today it’s inspiring for us. It’s not work, this is a little thing to do on our part to help others out.”
Live entertainment was delivered by singers, activists and spoken word poets. Michael Franti, Skip Marley, Nahko and Carrie Manolakos were just a few of the singers to share their musical talents with the Parkland community. Members of Shine MSD also debuted their new album “Wake Up America.”
Celebrity actress and activist, Alyssa Milano, was a guest speaker and shared her words of wisdom with the crowd, stressing the importance on voting for a safer future.
“Now the responsibility is on us to take action and start the conversations,” Milano said. “These conversations must continue right to the polling booths, right to election day. We need to make sure that everyone we know is registered to vote.”
Towards the end of the night, Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver who was murdered in the Parkland shooting, painted another of his “Walls of Demand” for his Change the Ref organization. This wall was especially important for him to make since this wall is the “Parkland Wall.”
“We need people to understand, that [shootings] are a wrong thing that is happening all over the country, not only in Parkland, and we have the option to change it,” Oliver said. “You don’t have to go through what I’m going through as a parent. You don’t have to go through what Joaquin went through as a kid. This is a no brainer, it’s not a debate, it’s common sense.”
The Actions for Change Food and Music Festival was another memorable event that made the Parkland community feel more connected than ever. With empowerment and inspiration from the performers and chefs, people will be heading to the polls on Nov. 6 with a determined goal of what they want their country to look like.