Kitchener’s Bill Cosby story brings forth a new kind of protest

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Voices Carry, a fundraising event held Jan. 7, showed the region a new way to protest controversial events. The controversy in question, Bill Cosby’s tour in southern Ontario, have sparked protests in several cities, including Kitchener.
 
The concert, held at Dallas Nightclub in Kitchener, was both a fundraiser for victims of sexual assault and an alternative event to Cosby’s show.
 
The past several months have generated a swarm of negative press for Cosby, who has been accused of sexual assault by over 30 women over the past few decades, most of whom have come forward in the past few months. Several civil suits have been launched recently, but Cosby has continued to tour regardless of countless protests.
 
The initial outcry against Cosby included a strong response on Twitter from local journalist Mike Farwell.
 
“My initial rant on Twitter, if you want to call it that, was focused on: we can’t let Bill Cosby come to our community, so what are we going to do to cancel it?"
 
“It didn’t take long for me to realize that cancelling it would have repercussions beyond my wildest imagination. So it turned into … let’s put the focus on the women that have accused Bill Cosby, and though we don’t know those women, we do know that there are women in our community that have been victims of sexual assault, sexual violence. What can we do to help them?” Farwell said.
Within days, the six-person organizing committee for Voices Carry was formed, and the event planning was underway.
 
“This all came from Twitter … Every single person that’s connected to this organizing committee reached out over Twitter and said how can we help, what can we do,” Farwell said.
 
The event, which was primarily a concert, featured performances from .:tala:. Drumming group, Sue Windover, Loretta Fullerton, Al Parrish, Lynn Jackson, Sandy McDonald, Johanna Pavia, and Souldrive.
 
Voices Carry received a massive outpour of support from the KW community. The event was brought together with the help of numerous sponsors who supplied food, equipment, door prizes, which included Ranger tickets, travel vouchers, spa packages, and other services.
 
“I think of all the people I reached out to, maybe two said no, and that’s been awesome,” Farwell said.
 
Shirley Lichti, another one of the organizers, added: “I think it’s an absolutely wonderful show of support from the community. We’ve been really, really pleased with all of eventthe people who have come forward and donated; the venue, the food, the bands, you name it.”
 
There was plenty of support from local politicians for the event. Brenda Halloran, Waterloo mayor from 2009 to 2014 gave a speech, and several other political figures, including the mayor of Waterloo, Dave Jaworsky, and the mayor of Kitchener, Berry Vrbanovic, presented door prizes.
 
“I think it’s important to have a conversation in the community … we have been talking for the past six weeks about women who have been sexually assaulted, we’ve been talking about statistics on rape, you don’t do that every day, you just don’t, because they’re not easy conversations to have, so I think that’s what makes this unique,” Farwell said.
 
The event raised $7,459 through ticket sales, and online donations were given to two local charities: Women’s Crisis Services, and the Sexual Assault Support Centre. The website will remain open for anyone who wishes to donate to the cause at a later date.
 
Farwell added: “I would love to see us as a community use this kind of response. It’s basically what I call the sober second thought: you can react immediately … but if you take a second and think about the situation more broadly, why not try to find the silver lining and what can we do to emphasize it. I think that’s exactly what we’ve done here.”
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