BY JANA WILSON
In December 2016, Jenn Harmless was on Facebook with three friends. All were concerned with the increasing number of hate incidents in Bloomington and across the country. At one point, someone asked, “Well, what are you doing about it?” That simple question sparked a discussion that lasted into the night and ended with the creation of the local nonprofit group We Are You.
We Are You works to bring more understanding of marginalized groups—people experiencing homelessness, trans people, handicapped individuals, and others—to the larger community. Its officers include the three friends from that Facebook chat: Harmless, Kim Storvik, and Laura Kray, along with Harmless’ fiancé, Matt Koch.
Harmless, 36, moved to Bloomington in 2007. With undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, she is especially interested in what happens to people in marginalized groups. “The way we treat people who are different [from us] is that we often dehumanize them,” she says.
To help counteract that, in early 2017 the group began interviewing and taking photos of people from marginalized groups, then posting them on social media. The hope is that people will feel connected to individuals from groups they may not interact with on a regular basis.
Many of the interviews are with people the We Are You founders know, but when the group put a notice on the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network, it received several responses.
“The thing that amazed me is that complete strangers saw the notice and told me things by email that blew me away,” Harmless says. “I think there are a lot of people who want an outlet to share their story and feel better after they do it.”
We Are You hosts events like “Speed Interaction” (think speed dating without the romance) where strangers get to know one another on a more meaningful level, and public discussion groups on a variety of topics, from dealing with hate speech to the experience of being marginalized.
For more, visit We Are You on Facebook.