By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
Service Never Sleeps (SNS) is a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit organization that empowers “individuals and communities to catalyze social justice through service and allyship,” according to its founder Whitney Parnell.
The millennial founder explains allyship as “an active way of life that utilizes bridge-building to ensure equality, opportunity, and inclusion for everyone.”
By engaging all kinds of people to use their strengths, privileges and networks Parnell contends true social justice for all can be achieved.
Parnell said the organization spreads its mission of allyship in the community through three prongs, including, a 1) Fellowship year of part-time service for young professionals, a 2) Corporate Citizenship program which partners with companies to organize skills-based service projects and 3) allyship workshop training to engage community members.”
Recently, SNS found a creative way to engage the community in becoming social justice allies- the arts. Voices United Community Chorus, founded by Charles C. Brown and Miriam “Mimi” Bornstein collaborated with Parnell and SNS to bring a concert that intertwined the message of survival and the continued fight for civil rights, all in a Gospel concert at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium.
Parnell has been singing under Brown who directs D.C.-based Zion Church’s Praise and Worship team.
Bornstein just moved to the D.C. area a year ago to direct the music program at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, where SNS had already been conducting regular allyship training for its members.
Bornstein and Brown were friends from guest teaching at the Unitarian Universalist Church.
In this interwoven web of friendships the concert in collaboration with SNS was born.
“We saw SNS’ mission living and breathing through the process of preparation for this concert,” Parnell said. “The actual performance was just the final product that allowed the audience to see and feel what we had been able to create in-house.”
The volunteer based choir rehearsed every Saturday for three months, yet did far more than just sing.
“They received SNS’ training about being effective allies, and the responsibility that they had in their privilege to support marginalized communities–to be effective community members in a way that centered and supported all members of the community. The choir broke bread together after rehearsals through potlucks, and met people of different backgrounds and faiths,” Parnell told the AFRO.
The June 30 concert showed the hard work of the choir as they sang harmoniously in unison and kept the over 400 people in the audience dancing and clapping throughout the show.
Yet Parnell said the concert was not the most important outcome of the collaboration.
“The biggest success of this experience was not the concert, but the journey that this group took together,” she said. “We like to coin Allyship as a posture of “Love-in-action.” The choir members were really great about centering that energy.”
By the end of the concert several people raised their hands in interest to participate in Voices United Community Chorus next year in order to sing for social justice.
SNS is always looking for allies.
“If you want to take a deep-dive into social justice, and are a millennial in the D.C. area, then you can apply to be a part of our Fellowship year of part-time skills-based service,” Parnell said, which opens next month. “If you’re looking to learn how to be a more effective Ally, you can reach out to take our 6-hour allyship workshop.”
The organization is also looking to conduct more allyship training, gearing up for a gala to celebrate its third birthday and is hoping to inspire a “national allyship movement,” Parnell told the AFRO.
For more information on SNS and how to get involved visit the organization’s website at serviceneversleeps.org.