Fairfield Equity Coalition lights Tree of Hope

FAIRFIELD — The Tree of Hope on Sherman Green is alight again.

The Parks and Recreation Commission chose the Fairfield Equity Coalition to be the first organization to light the Tree of Hope to honor the group’s goal of equity for all starting with curriculum and programs in the local school district.

Jessica Gerber, chair of the commission’s tree subcommittee, said the FEC lit the tree in a short, socially distanced ceremony last week. Leaders of the organization spoke Aug. 19 before the Parks and Rec commission explaining their goal.

“We felt that the FEC’s mission of students and recent graduates working and advocating for equity fell under the parameters of the charge of the Tree of Hope,” Gerber said of the subcommittee’s recommendation to the commission.

According to FEC President Lynnaija Brevard, the organization is a youth-led group working to re-imagine Fairfield’s definition of what constitutes a comprehensive education.

“Our goal is to push for equitable policy and curriculum changes within Fairfield Public Schools while raising awareness on injustices against marginalized populations within our community,” Brevard said.

Youth in Fairfield, Brevard said, have taken on leadership roles in fighting for a more equitable, inclusive and diverse town.

“For too long, critical voices of the youth in our community have been silenced,” Brevard said. “Change starts at home, and to better our community, we must begin by hearing them, especially the voices of students of color.”

Brevard said lighting the tree is a physical representation of the equitable changes the group is promoting and that their efforts can help the community envision what a better Fairfield could look like.

“With that in mind, we are applying our equity work to be represented on the Tree of Hope to show the hope we have for a more equitable town,” she said. “Our mission as the youth within our town is to fight for the change we all need to see and be held accountable for.”

Gerber said the tree was donated and planted last year by Al DiGuido, the owner of Saugatuck Sweets, who also donated lights in the colors of the FEC. She said the charge of the Tree of Hope is to be lit with the colors of organizations that benefit Fairfield children and families in need, with the Parks and Recreation Commission’s approval, between Jan. 16 and Nov. 29.

“When Lynnaija and Zoe Gupta, the other FEC student representative, spoke before the P&R commission on Aug. 19, many commission members were impressed with their initiative and wholeheartedly supported their request to be part of the Tree of Hope,” she said.

According to Gerber, the commission will be discussing other recommendations from the subcommittee during its upcoming meetings.