Stamatis, a Thessaloniki resident, was looking for a creative way to break conventions to achieve societal progress. He wanted to combine social activism with the arts to convey messages of inclusivity and human rights. With this idea in mind, Stamatis set out to gather the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to carry out his vision for their community.
In 2018, he became a Fellow at Humanity in Action. He left his native Greece and went to Germany to participate in the Berlin Fellowship Program. With the help of the training and discussions during his Fellowship, Stamatis’ vision became clearer. Eventually, he got insight into how oppression exists everywhere in the world and how creative community building can be a constructive way of addressing it. He had an idea about to achieve just that in his own community, which then became his Action Project.
The project, Playing for Equality (PfE), started out in 2017 as an informal education youth group that used performing arts as a means to combat social injustice in Thessaloniki. In the beginning, the group focused on LGBTQIA+ issues but after Stamatis completed the Fellowship, it embraced a broader agenda encompassing other human rights causes relevant to the community. The group held regular meetings with ice-breakers, energizers and team building activities. For this type of projects, trust and psychological safety are necessary preconditions for group cohesion.
Playing for Equality exists because it should not exist. (Mary Seisoglou, Active PfE Member)
Once they had gotten to know each other, the group started to dig deeper: they looked at the human rights topics that touched them on a personal level or that they saw a need to address. The plan then became to organize a performance piece that would present these issues to the community. This ended up taking the shape of a two part flash mob in December 2018, in the central streets of Thessaloniki. The first part was about oppression and discrimination as a whole, and the second was about rape culture.
Initially, Stamatis had planned for this to be a one time project. However, the reactions from the community and the team were so positive, that people asked to make this a recurring event. Since then, Playing for Equality meets between university semesters biannually to continue the passing on of positive messages of inclusivity to the community through engaging and fun artistic activities.
The project ended up becoming so successful, that the European Parliament invited and funded 20 members of the team to attend the European Youth Event (EYE2020), which will take place in Strasbourg later this year.