The Spirit of Art and Activism: An Inspirational Closing at the 2016 Conference on Volunteering and Service

Jun 30, 2016
“As changemakers, we have been charged to live our passion out loud, with enthusiasm,” said emcee Mike Ellison, who invited attendees on stage to participate in his final performance at Conference.

Music, passion and social entrepreneurship dominated the closing plenary of the 2016 Conference on Volunteering and Service in Detroit, punctuating three days that brought nearly 3,000 attendees and speakers together to share and learn from one another as we unite in service to shape the future of our communities, and our world.

CEO Tracy Hoover and Chairman Neil Bush presented the Daily Point of Light award to Yara Shahidi.

Actress Yara Shahidi stunned the audience with her passion and eloquence around the issues of equity, service and the power of art to make a change. The 16-year-old star of ABC’s “Black-ish” used her TV character as an example to illustrate the important role of the media in defining our collective reality: “I believe that it is my obligation, and all of our human obligation as artists, content creators, painters, musicians, poets, teacher, actors, educators, influencers, dancers, people, to present a truer representation of the colorful world we live in.”

Shahidi was honored with Daily Point of Light Award number 5,772, presented by Points of Light CEO Tracy Hoover and Chairman Neil Bush, in recognition of her passion and commitment to lending a voice to the issues she cares deeply about.

"I believe in the power of music to fashion peace and love in our world,” said Mariela Shaker.

“It’s through my art that I have purposefully chosen to express my activism,” said Shahidi, a sentiment shared by others who joined the stage. Mariela Shaker, a virtuoso violinist from Aleppo, spoke briefly about her personal journey from Syria and the continued plight of refugees. Shaker, the White House Champion for Change for World Refugees, then performed two pieces conveying those sentiments. Emmy award-winner Maya Azucena spoke of how the tragedy of 9/11 spurred her to become a changemaker. “Don’t doubt your voice in the world. Every one of us is needed in the quest for change on this planet,” Azucena told the crowd — then raised the roof with her performance of “Unleash Me.”

Social entrepreneurs Phillip Cooley of Ponyride and Christian Vanizette of MakeSense, demonstrated the worldwide impact that vision, passion and technology can have when harnessed effectively. Ponyride created working space to provide the opportunity for multiple service organizations to take root in Detroit and impact the community. MakeSense made a difference when larger organizations got bogged down, mobilizing and raising more than $300,000 to transport refugees in the Mediterranean.

"Active citizens lead, governments follow, technology enables," said Christian Vanizette, cofounder of MakeSense.

David Albritton, executive director of global product development communications at General Motors, saluted the work of every attendee, and thanked them for participating in the teamGM Cares service project – packing 5,000 backpacks with school supplies and nutritious snacks, which will be distributed to local children through the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Meet Up and Eat Up events.

Following a rousing and interactive performance by emcee Mike Ellison, he was joined by Points of Light Chairman Neil Bush and CEO Tracy Hoover to announce the location of the 2017 Conference on Volunteering and Service: Seattle. We hope to see you there!

Check out more highlights from conference, from the attendee perspective. View the #ServiceUnites photo gallery.

Robert Montgomery