L’Arche Atlanta wins second place in lip-syncing competition
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Decatur, GA – L’Arche Atlanta came in second place behind L’Arche Daybreak in the Battle of the Fans, the world’s first international lip syncing competition hosted by people with disabilities that was sponsored by L’Arche Canada.
L’Arche, pronounced Larsh, is a non-profit that was established in France in 1964 and has grown into a global organization with 130 communities across the world. The idea behind L’Arche is recognizing the gifts that people with disabilities bring to their communities, L’Arche Atlanta Executive Director Tim Moore said.
“Those may not be the gifts that are valorized by cultures that are shaped by economies that need a lot of capital input and people with disabilities don’t have the capacity for a lot of that. But they have other gifts, [like] tenderness and wonderment and spontaneity and are also quite capable of astonishing or breaking our expectations of them,” Moore said.
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“Our theory of change, if you will, is that if we can create spaces of belonging for people with disabilities to be rooted and treasured that their gifts will emerge and they can contribute to our community and have a valid place in the human family,” he added
The core of L’Arche’s mission is focused on homes where people with and without disabilities live together and form a little family, Moore said.
“So we have the first house that’s in the Oakhurst neighborhood and it functions just like any other family, right? We cook together, we clean together, we fight together, we forgive together. Then from there, that spark of community life, we try to extend that to a broader audience through our community events,” Moore said, adding that events have shifted during the coronavirus pandemic.
The non-profit is in the process of building a second home that will also be located in Decatur at the corner of Scott Boulevard and Clairmont Avenue. Moore said they hope to open the house in the spring. These homes provide long-term housing, transportation, daily life support and a sense of belonging, according to the L’Arche Atlanta website.
L’Arche offers home-based services where assistants work to cultivate belonging through relationships with L’Arche house members. The assistants are not medical professionals but are trained to administer medication and recognize potential medical conditions, according to the L’Arche Atlanta website.
Additionally, the organization has CONNEXIONS groups which are small groups where people can gather around a shared interest such as hiking, yoga or art. L’Arche Atlanta also hosts community events. Their biggest event is the Valentine’s Day dance. In February, about 130 people with and without disabilities attended the dance.
“When you’re dancing with people with disabilities who don’t have any inhibitions about dancing and skill levels vary left and right, and someone like me, who’s always felt a little bit uncomfortable in my body when on the dance floor, like it’s really freeing. It’s a really wonderful experience,” Moore said.
Small groups and events, such as trivia, have gone virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
L’Arche Atlanta also does advocacy and partners with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities to collect stories and align them with the legislative agenda to help make sure that policymakers’ decisions are informed by the experiences of people living with disabilities in the state, Moore said.
In the final round of the Battle of the Fans, L’Arche Atlanta competed L’Arche Daybreak from Canada and lip synced the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister.
“It’s all virtual, all online and L’Arche communities around the world entered a bracket style tournament and each community is assigned a song and then has to make a music video,” Moore said.
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Most of the videos included a celebrity message at the end where a celebrity shared a story about how a person with a disability has made a positive contribution in their life. These special guests included the lead singers of Journey and Twisted Sister.
Throughout the tournament, teams competed for social media likes and shares as well as donations in order to advance to the next round.
“The point, the purpose of this is a), to elevate the mission of L’Arche and to introduce our mission and our message to new audiences; and then b), it’s to raise support to fund the mission,” Moore said.
The competition lasted about five weeks and in total L’Arche, as an organization, raised over $100,000 and had over 90,000 views on all videos in the Battle of the Fans.
Moore said the experience was fantastic especially given the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, L’Arche Atlanta has had to take many measures to protect the vulnerable members of their community as people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are three times more likely to die from the coronavirus, according to the New York Times.
“Our worlds have shrunk pretty significantly through this and a good bit of isolation has resulted. This just gave us an opportunity to, in the midst of what it feels like a Groundhog Day scenario where everyday looks the same, have a creative and new way to express ourselves, and in a fun competitive way that gets people’s energies invested,” Moore said. “It’s brought a lot of life to our community and creativity.”
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