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United We Stand: Lera Bracelet Initiative Co-Founders Ellen Efkarpidis and Aphrodite Dimopoulos
by C. Salboudis
A shout-out to Hellenic Young Professionals Ellen Efkarpidis and Aphrodite Dimopoulos for their admirable L.E.R.A. bracelet awareness initiative. The L.E.R.A. (Learn, Educate, Respond and Act) initiative was established in response to the Black Lives Matter activities surrounding the recent George Floyd incident.
Since the 1800s, the minority Greek American and African American populations have banded together in solidarity against intolerance and inequality. For decades before the Civil Rights Movement — and in the many years since the ministries of Archbishop Iakovos of America (1959-1996) and Dr. Martin Luther King (1955-1968) — we’ve worked towards the common goals of social inclusivity and justice.
In the words of NEO Magazine’s very own Demetrios Rhompotis, real life examples of the unity between these two cultural groups have taught us that “tests in school prove our grasp of various subjects; life and its collective challenges prove our valor and dignity as human beings.” Time and again, individual heroes and organizations in our community have reached out to secure and preserve the fundamental principles of equality that are at the heart of the American vision “Liberty and Justice For All.” Each manifestation of courage that unfolds through initiatives like this one serve as examples to inspire heightened sensitivity and understanding of what active equality looks like today, where the gaps are, and what work we need to join together to accomplish for this and future generations.
In the midst of concerns over online instruction and other pandemic-related issues, these young women have taken a stand to identify a positive community-building opportunity and took action to make the world a better place. While decorative, the bracelets also serve as a prompt to search our own internal bias and determine positive steps towards accountability and empathy for all our brothers and sisters both here and around the world.
“For those wearing the bracelet it has become a subtle and constant reminder of empathy and compassion towards others, with luck that will continue to grow,” Efkarpidis said. “We also hope the bracelets sparks productive and positive conversations about important issues of what it means to support one another.”
It is remarkable to see how the social disruption has motivated the young founders of this initiative (Schreiber High School Class of 2021) to establish a fundraising strategy that will lead to better sensitivity training and charitable support of our cultures, which have been united for so long. Proceeds from bracelet sales will be split between Campaign Zero, The Innocence Project and The National Police Accountability Project, each of which has set a goal to reform the criminal justice system and police departments.
To get your LERA Bracelet and support this initiative, visit lerabracelets.com