Creating Belonging at the Harris Center
Affinity groups welcome people with a shared identity, background, or interest — such as race, gender identity, lived experience, sexual orientation, physical ability, or another commonality — to gather together. These groups offer the space for members to support and affirm one another, reflect on shared experiences, and feel comfortable, safe, and empowered. Affinity groups invite each attendee to show up and be seen as their fullest self, a self which may not be welcomed or fully understood by the dominant culture. In doing so, these groups represent an opportunity for members to take a break — to rest — from being “othered” or misunderstood, from acting as teachers, from representing an entire group of people, and from fearing or experiencing disrespect or violence.
LAB GIRLS+ was designed to help middle school girls stay in love with science. (photo © Susie Spikol)
Birding for All outings are designed for people of all abilities. (photo © Meade Cadot)
Affinity groups have come about from a growing understanding that our dominant culture has produced injustice, inequity, and exclusion. They are spaces that center those whose experiences and voices have historically been marginalized.
By offering space for affinity groups, the Harris Center is taking a page out of nature’s playbook. In nature, diversity is not only accepted but is essential: every species, every being, plays a critical role in the resilience and health of its ecosystem. When beavers engineer their dams, the resulting ponds and meadows not only benefit the beavers but also create the conditions for nutrients to enrich the soil, for water to slow down and stay a while, and for birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians alike to thrive. In nature, there is a deep knowing that creating space for one creates belonging for all.
We, too, are nature, and we are striving to create the conditions for everyone to belong.
These Harris Center programs were designed to welcome specific groups of people:
- Babies in Backpacks
- Birding for All
- Hiking through Grief
- LAB GIRLS+
- LGBTQ+ Community Outings
- Veterans Outings
In Their Own Words
Birding for All
“The trail was excellent and for those in their 90s with walking and balance problems, a real gift and chance to see and hear a few sights and songs only heard in the forest.”
“I… appreciate that Harris Center is offering accessible bird walks for people who may need special consideration (wheelchairs, etc.) which is so wonderfully inclusive and thoughtful.” – Marion Noble
“This was a perfect field trip connecting everyone to nature… just what the Harris Center’s Mission is!”
LGBTQ+ Community Outings
“Nature is a space where gay, non-binary and trans people can thrive; where we don’t have to worry about being accepted or feel the need to justify our own existence. The LGBTQ+ outings with the Harris Center are a welcoming and vital connection to celebrate that liberation with our community. Sharing time in the outdoors without fear of harassment or persecution is a powerful and comforting thing – one our community is in need of.” – Kim Snyder (she/her)
“Being able to connect to the community was really meaningful for me, as I did not know a community like this existed in Keene.”
“Keep these OUTings coming, they’re so important at bringing people together when we need it most.”
“Really exciting just to be out moving in the woods with other LGBTQ folks.”
For more information on our programming for affinity groups, please call us at (603) 525-3394.