Simon Chambers

Chambers, Toronto-based director of communications for the ACT Alliance, a World Council of Churches (WCC) specialized ministries partner, shared a story shortly after he received the Waterfall of Solidarity and Resistance: sharing the stories” book published by the WCC. 

I had been hearing about the book project for a while, knowing that it was going to be different from other books,” said Chambers. But nothing could prepare me for the creativity and power of the book when I got it in my hands.”

The tapestry on which the book is based is six meters wide and five meters long, with over 180 panels handcrafted by people all over the world. Both the tapestry and the book share personal pain and hope to overcome sexual and gender-based violence.

The books design creates a patchwork using different papers, styles, and stories.  “As I began to turn the pages and see the individual patches of the quilt and the stories behind them and beside them on the page, the power of the book swept over me and I am still slowly reading through the book, appreciating the lived experience of all the women and girls behind the quilt,” said Chambers, who first learned about the Thursdays in Black campaign for a world free from rape and violence during his first visit to Geneva after starting to work for the ACT Secretariat, in January 2017. 

Marianne Ejdersten, the director of communications for WCC, was introducing me to the Ecumenical Centre and asked if I knew about the campaign,” he recalled. She explained it to me and gave me a button.”

Since then, Chambers has been committed to wearing black on Thursdays, most of the time from head to toe. 

A fashion-forward approach

Earlier this year, a men's style YouTube influencer who I follow opened an online community for men who want to discuss together issues of style, behaviour, etc.,” said Chambers. The Real Men Real Style community launched, and one of the categories of discussion is 'Outfits of the Day,’ where people post photographs and information about what they are wearing and why so that others can offer them feedback and learn from their outfits.”

Chambers, who was already posting about Thursdays in Black on his own social media channels, decided the campaign also made fashion sense. 

It was a natural opportunity in my mind to post a photograph of myself in my Thursday suit (a black suit that I wear just about every Thursday) along with information about Thursdays in Black,” he said. I posted that outfit and the information on the first Thursday the community was open, and again on the second Thursday.”

Other men in the community asked him for links to the WCC website about Thursdays in Black, and about why he supports the campaign.  

By the third week, some men were already starting to incorporate black into their own outfits, and the phrase On Thursdays we wear black’  began to show up on many of their outfit posts,” said Chambers. Many of them refer back to me for more information on the campaign, but some have begun to challenge each other to explain the campaign themselves, and some have gone to other sources within the ecumenical movement in their own research into the campaign.”

Now dozens of men around the world are wearing black on Thursdays as part of the campaign. "A number have gone out and purchased black clothing specifically so they can join in,” said Chambers. And they are not just wearing black, but talking about why they are wearing black.”

Chambers was touched by how quickly and completely men he did not know when he joined the community in February—and only one of whom hes met in person since—have embraced the Thursdays in Black campaign and made it part of their lives.

Just last week, one of the gentlemen suggested a new, related idea—to wear bow ties on Tuesdays to raise awareness of sex trafficking,” he said. Who knows how far this group will go as they stand up for gender rights through their style?”

Chambers said he feels both humbled and proud to be part of Real Men Real Style, and to have introduced Thursdays in Black to this community.

In fact, I was enjoying watching the posts on the men's group yesterday and seeing all the gentlemen who support the campaign, and I had another person who just joined the group who said, Ive never heard of Thursdays in Black before... Well, that's my Thursday sorted from now on…’ and he plans to be in black every week moving forward.”

Waterfall of Solidarity and Resistance: sharing the stories

Learn more about Thursdays in Black

Simon Chambers

contributed by Simon Chambers