Wilmer Valderrama, America Ferrera and Ryan Piers Williams put their heads together and from there Harness was born. Using their platforms, the trio of Hollywood stars created an organization that would encourage a shift in the narratives that surround social issues and affect marginalized communities. Together, with the help of more of their celebrity friends and grassroots leaders, they have created an organization that most recently caters to lending a hand when it comes to completing the 2020 Census with their new #BeCounted campaign and continue to raise awareness about communities that were disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
Harness has remained true to their mission of serving those who have limited resources and information and focusing on broader issues within marginalized communities. Below, Wilmer opens up about what inspired the initiative and how Harness is doing its part to uplift the world.
What was your mission when launching Harness: “Harness was born out of a lot of the efforts that all of us had done but on our own. We were out there just making a little noise by ourselves. Shortly after the  election, we felt like a lot of our communities –the Muslim community, the Asian community, the Latino and the African-Americans, LGBTQ –were somehow under attack by just being exposed. When that happened, we just wanted to be a community, so America Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams and I invited all of our friends over to my house. We had 70 people in our living. That‘s when Harness was born, when we realized that we could just facilitate this space for everyone to workshop each other’s thoughts and ideas, and also to heal one another. It was an exciting, beautiful moment when we realized that we had a space, we had a community that we could lean and fearlessly stand by and beside them.”
What was the best part of forming it: “Harness became a, ‘Let me finish your sentence. I think we can finish each other‘s sentences here and I think we can build each other’s ranks here.’ Since that moment, I’m proud to say that a lot of our movements, campaigns and marches have been so inspiring and so much more supportive of one another. We show up for each other.”
Who do you hope to uplift with your organization: “It’s about humanizing the statistic and embodying the individual that is affected by it. For us, as entertainers and organizers or activists, our main job is, and it’s within our strength, to story tell and amplify the stories that hopefully, not just change the hearts but educate the minds of our communities in how to be there.”
You also put together the Six Feet Apart Series during COVID: “As activists you show up. At this time, they‘re telling us the most patriotic thing you can do is not show up right now. So ultimately, I started thinking about what six feet apart meant to me. I thought that, well maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe six feet apart means that we get a chance to, for the first time, not be too close to something. When you’re too close to things, you can’t necessarily see things for what they can be. If you can take six feet apart and see the big picture and understand perspective and put yourself in somebody else’s story, I think it would lead you to act with more kindness and more consideration to the people that are doing jobs you can’t even imagine what it takes.
“The best thing I can do right now is to lend my platforms, or at least the engagement I have in some of my platforms, to create conversations that the people are not exposed to. Through Harness, we are in touch with all of the main unions that take care of our most vulnerable communities, and they happen to be the farmer workers, domestic workers; they happen to be those unions that are definitely looking out for some of those essential jobs. Some people DM me, some people were just people I knew.”