Despite sweltering heat, dozens of caring Ithacans turned out to clean Wood Street Park for the third annual “Building Unity, Cleaning the Hate” event sponsored by the Ithaca Coalition of Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICUCME). As Mayor Svante Myrick commented about the event, “Cleaning up your community does more than just show you love this place. It shows you love your neighbor. We need those demonstrations now more than ever — we need to do more than we ever have.”
Before the clean-up, participants broke bread together with a vegetarian pot-luck, then divided into small groups for a community discussion on what “cleaning the hate” meant to them. One group reflected on the word “hate” itself, considering whether something focused on the “isms,” like racism, that divide us would have been a better choice.
Another group discussed how they personally “clean the hate” in the world, offering examples such as donating to worthy causes and volunteering to help migrant workers. Yet another group talked about how much hate has infected politics.
The conversations continued even after organizers announced it was time to begin the park clean-up. Participants collected gloves and trash bags donated by Wegmans, then headed out, still talking, into what many had commented seemed like a very clean park. In the end, though, two large black garbage bags full of trash were removed from the park, a satisfying end to a successful event.