Common Ground uses music in effort to beat hunger

Humanists For Equality held the concert and free spaghetti feed on Saturday.

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A group of boys play hacky sack during an early band's performance at a youth concert to raise humanitarian awareness Saturday afternoon. The concert, inside the Walla Walla Housing Authority Gym, attracted youth from throughout the community and was scheduled to last into the night.

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Two friends and fans cheer on Christy Moore as she performs on stage under the group name Pretty Boi during a youth concert to raise humanitarian awareness Saturday afternoon.

WALLA WALLA -- At the same time that a local high school band was singing the chorus to Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" at the Common Ground concert, event organizer Jade Fenton was pointing out that as far as she is concerned, heaven has little to do with her nonprofit charity group.

"We want to provide an atmosphere were everyone is welcome. It is not about saving people," she said. Then she added, "But I like this song. I really do."

On Saturday, Humanists For Equality held the Common Ground concert and free spaghetti feed at the gymnasium of the Walla Walla Housing Authority, 501 Cayuse St.

Throughout the afternoon, dozens of high school youths could be seen milling about the hall, eating free donuts and setting up gear for the band performances that took place throughout the day.

Music and poetry, Fenton explained, are a big part of Humanists For Equality. And last fall the group held several open mics and poetry readings at local coffee houses.

But solving problems is also part of the group's goals, just not all problems.

"They (the youths) are just looking for a place and for people who are not trying to change them at the core of who they are and trying to get rid of their demons," Fenton said.

What the group is trying to change is hunger. And shortly after forming, the group held several free dinners at Heritage Square Park, roughly 15 to 50 people were served a free dinner every other Wednesday.

Like those at the Common Ground concert, Fenton said most who showed up for the free meals were teens who just needed a place to hang and not be judged, which is a tenet of Humanists For Equality.

But she added that she and her colleagues went around town to seek out the homeless and invite them to a free meal, without a message.

"It's not that we are anti-Christian. We just think that everybody should be able to stand on the same level, no matter what they believe. And that is why we call this Common Ground," she said.

The group is now looking for a location where it can hold its activities and possibly form a recreation center. It also plans to resume its free diners in the spring.

To learn more about Humanists For Equality, call 509-876-2345.

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