All Saints Church to Host Diversity Festival in Response to White Nationalist Speaker
Above: Pastor Kit Carlson at the Blessing of the Animals at All Saints Church in 2014.
On Monday, March 5, East Lansing’s All Saints Church will play host to a family-friendly event that aims to bring together people from the Greater Lansing community in celebration of diversity. This event is being held in response to white nationalist Richard Spencer coming to speak at Michigan State University’s Pavilion that day, as well as in response to what the All Saints event coordinators describe as “the rise in visible white supremacy” across the country.
The Celebration of Diversity Festival represents a collaborative effort by All Saints and numerous communities across Greater Lansing. According to organizers, the goal is to celebrate values such as inclusivity and equality, as well as to provide a safe, nonviolent space for participants to come together and have fun.
The event itself will offer participants a selection of entertainment acts, food and beverages, and the chance to take part in various activities. There will be an indoor stage with different acoustic performances as well as a DJ from Jump Start DJs set up in the parking lot.
Craft stations will be available for sign-making and for the painting of ‘love rocks,’ an art form that aims to provide a creative way for people to reach out to others. The love rocks are painted with encouraging messages and left in various locales, so that they might brighten someone else’s day unexpectedly.
All Saints will be offering an interfaith prayer space for those who wish to pray or meditate upstairs, and will also offer quiet spaces and off-site areas to those who request it. Food trucks will be parked outside in the parking lot, and Sultans in East Lansing will be donating food. There will also be a potluck for baked goods and participants are welcome to bring plates to share.
“If people are members of target groups and feel like they need a safe place to be on a day when alt-right groups come to town, they will be safe here,” All Saints Pastor Kit Carlson tells ELi.
The event has seen a rapidly growing number of supporters from both the East Lansing and MSU communities. Supporters include various faith-based organizations such as the Network of Spiritual Progressives and the Interfaith Clergy Association of Greater Lansing as well as clubs at Michigan State, including MSU College Democrats, MSU College Republicans, and the Black Student Alliance. The Council of Graduate Students and ASMSU are also sponsoring the event, along with the City of East Lansing, Young Americans for Liberty at MSU, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council, and the Muslim Student Association.
“We’ve had other hate groups come to town, and when they do, people want to do something about it,” says Carlson. All Saints hosted a similar event in 2010, when Westboro Baptist Church came to picket in East Lansing. A counter-protest, called a “Peace Party,” was held in the parking lot of the Church, drawing hundreds of people. “After that, it became clear to us that our parking lot and location are good for this kind of activity,” says Carlson.
Carlson is expecting a turnout of as many as five hundred people on March 5. “East Lansing is a tolerant, diverse, open minded community,” she says. “One of the best things we can do is offer an activity where people can gather to reaffirm our shared values, have fun, and get to know each other.”
Councilmember Aaron Stephens, an MSU student, tells ELi that he’s “looking forward to the event and really looking forward to the entire MSU and East Lansing communities coming together and showing what we believe in – that our diversity makes us stronger and more unified as a community.”
ELPD will have officers set to stop by the All Saints event, according to Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez. He says ELPD officers will also be available through mutual aid agreements to assist MSU Police, the agency taking the lead in managing events at and around Spencer’s talk.
This All Saints event will take place Monday, March 5, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing.
Alice Dreger contributed reporting to this article.
Update: After publication, information about additional sponsors was added.