The Firefly Gathering, an Asheville-based nonprofit, is hosting their Annual Gathering this June 20-25th. Over 1,000 people come from around the country to attend The Firefly Gathering each summer at Deerfields, near Mills River, NC. Here, attendees experience a week of classes focused on living sustainably with Earth and in community, live musical performances, keynote speakers, engaging youth programs, and restorative time in nature. People leave filled with joy, empowerment, and connection, better equipped to co-create a sustainable future. This year, Firefly expands their efforts and offerings for community resilience building with their Equity Committee, Equity Fund and intentional relationship building. As Firefly continues to further their commitment to equity, the organization envisions their growth towards offering Earthskills for Every Body.
Since their first event in 2007, The Firefly Gathering has become the largest earthskills gathering in the country. Firefly’s Community Equity Advocate, Isa Whitaker, joined the staff in 2016 to help form equity strategies such as their Equity Fund, dedicated to helping cover the cost of entry to the Annual Firefly Gathering for folks from the global majority with financial need. Through their transition to becoming a nonprofit in 2019, their equity and nature-reconnection work began to resonate with a wider audience, as impacts of isolation and resource inequality came to the forefront during the pandemic. In addition to creating an Equitable Pricing Model for their year-round Perennial Workshops, some 1,000 people came to attend the 2022 Gathering with close to $2,000 in funds being distributed for Equity applicants. This year, The Firefly Gathering seeks to expand fundraising and grant efforts to expand their Equity Fund and offer more programs at the event, and they continue to engage more people from the global majority as key stakeholders in the organization’s staff, board, and instructors.
At the 2022 Firefly Gathering, the organization expanded its efforts to support the experience of community building and community care through offerings such as The Neighborhood. This dedicated space embraces different experiences that are specific to different populations, creating physical places for every body to go and relax, including areas for women, men, LGBTQIA+, and people of the global majority. “We’ve learned that it is not enough just to bring the people we seek to welcome to the event; we also have to care for them once they’re there,” says Executive Director, Marissa Percoco. Last year, The Neighborhood brought events such as the Friday night Block Party to the Gathering- a multicultural offering where homemade carne asada and mofongo were shared to cumbia music, as Taino folks told the colonization story of Puerto Rico. The Neighborhood space will be back again this year, with more funds allotted to programming as determined by the organization’s new Equity Committee.
Firefly Gathering’s Equity Committee is led by 5 organizational stakeholders that are predominantly members of the global majority. This Committee serves to advise the Board and Executive Director in developing systems and strategies to realize more inclusivity and responsiveness to the needs and experiences of everyone who participates in Firefly Gathering’s workshops, events and infrastructure. This year, the Committee is working to develop ways to design supportive camping experiences and a space where mental health professionals and support crews can offer a calming and affirming place inside the event. The Firefly Gathering also continues to build close relations with Tyson Sampson of Bigwitch Indian Wisdom Initiative, Aunt Amy Walker, and other members of the ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏴ (or Aniyvwiyv: The Original People) to bring indigenous voices to the forefront, finding our collective path forward in which all beings can thrive.
“Over time, our goal is to build these deep relations and transform The Firefly Gathering into a community-based force of change that is as diverse as the world we walk in,” says Percoco. This year’s Gathering takes place at Deerfields near Mills, River, NC from June 20-25th. Learn more about the Annual Firefly Gathering and Equity Fund at www.fireflygathering.org/annual
. Donations to Firefly’s Equity Fund can be made here. With hundreds of classes to choose from, there is something for everyone at Firefly, and this year they are excited for their most exciting Gathering yet!
Firefly Gathering is a 501(c)3 Organization based in Asheville, NC. Read more about Firefly and the Annual Firefly Gathering on our website at www.fireflygathering.org/annual
Photo credit: Sarah Tew Photography