Junior Christopher Biehn was excited to watch his favorite band, Coldplay, perform during the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime Show. During the set, the band lit up the stadium with big rainbow lights that spelled out “Believe in Love.” Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, sported buttons with the same message. Biehn was immediately inspired by the message and wanted to bring the concept to the Ithaca community.
With help from volunteer groups within Ithaca College, the Gamma chapter of Cornell’s Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, the Love Button Global Movement and the Ithaca community, Biehn will make this a reality through the event Believe in Love from 4 to 8 p.m. April 22 on The Commons, featuring speakers and musicians.
“The whole concept is to empower communities through acts of kindness,” Biehn said.
After looking into the buttons worn by Martin, Biehn became interested in the Love Button Global Movement. The movement, which works closely with organizations that aim to positively impact and uplift people, was founded by Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami, two doctors who take individualistic approaches to healing. The duo wanted to spread acts of kindness nationwide.
Speakers at the Ithaca event will discuss topics including race, the environment, mental health, addiction and disabilities. Local bands will perform, including South Hill Revival, Vee Da Bee and Jared Ingraham. The headlining musician will be X-Factor contestant Emmanuel Kelly, an individual with a disability.
During a local mission trip with the Ithaca College Protestant Community, Biehn emailed the Love Button movement to obtain pins that mirrored the same positive message his mission trip represented.
“I reached out to Love Button and was like, ‘Hey, we’re doing this project, and it kind of represents what your organization embodies. Would you be willing to donate love buttons?’” Biehn said. “And they said, ‘Absolutely.’”
The mission trip also allowed Biehn to recruit his friend, sophomore Annalise Haldeman, to help him with an idea: to create an event in downtown Ithaca that celebrated diversity.
“When he mentioned it, I was like, ‘Yeah, of course I want to be involved,’” Haldeman said.
After receiving buttons in preparation for the downtown event, Biehn reached out to Emma Lancaster, a Love Button employee he met during the mission trip, who connected Biehn with an ambassador from the Love Button movement. From there, Biehn began to form a committee of helping hands to prepare the downtown event. The team includes Sadeghi, who will be speaking at the Believe in Love event.
Over brunch, Biehn explained his position as an ambassador to sophomore Carlie McClinsey and asked her to join his newly formed committee. McClinsey became the social media outreach coordinator for the event.
“Although one event can’t cure [the hate] that’s spreading around, an event that comes with the purpose of love and sharing the intersectionalities of these communities is something we really need at this time,” McClinsey said.
Haldeman became a member of the student committee and said she feels that all the speakers and performances are extremely important for the community to be involved in. Haldeman wants everyone to understand that they need to be the beginning of the change they want to see.
“You are where it starts when it comes to loving one another and creating peace and real change,” Haldeman said.
Biehn said he feels that this event is important to everyone, including college students and community members. In light of the current political climate, Biehn said, he wants to bring people together to emphasize similarities rather than separation.
“The country is the most divided it has been in our lifetimes,” Biehn said. “There is so much political hostility. There is so much division.”
McClinsey said she is passionate about diversity and the inclusion of disabled bodies. Besides working for a start-up in New York City that makes products for disabled children, she grew up alongside a friend with autism. She said she feels that there is a form of oppression felt by the disabled community, including her friend, that is not often expressed.
“The two of us became really good friends, but I always knew that he felt different than everybody else because of this,” McClinsey said. “It’s something that has really stuck with me throughout life.”
Biehn plans to speak about love and mental health at the event. He said he will share his experiences with bipolar disorder and address his struggles with the stigma. He plans to give suggestions on how to help friends and family members who suffer from mental illnesses.
“I really do believe that the purpose for my pain is to help others who suffer in similar ways,” Biehn said.
With extensive help from the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity at Cornell University, Biehn anticipates a massive turnout of students and community members. The event is mainly being advertised on the college’s and Cornell’s campuses, but the invitation is extended to the Ithaca community as well. Biehn said that even if the number of students who come to the event is smaller than what they expect, a meaningful conversation will still be held.
“The mission of this event is as simple as this: If we love well, we did well,” Biehn said.
Haldeman said she hopes that this event is not a onetime celebration. She expects the Believe in Love movement to persist each year, gaining momentum and getting larger each time.
“I look at this as an initial event to channel kindness and love in the Ithaca community and see how it spreads,” Haldeman said.