Reconnection and Intentional Spaces with Jae Ortiz

Learn more about Jae Ortiz's offerings at Firefly, and how intentional spaces like the Neighborhood build community resilience and reconnection in our pathways forward.

Meet Jae Ortiz, the lead coordinator of Firefly Gathering’s intentional space for supporting rest and connection for the unique experiences of women, men, LGBTQIA+, and the global majority at The Neighborhood. An active Board Member on Firefly’s Equity Committee, graphic designer for this year’s merch to fundraise for the Equity Fund, and Block Party organizer, Jae joins us for his second year at Firefly Gathering with his expanding offerings for intentional space and community building. 

In this post, learn more about Jae’s work and how intentional spaces build community resilience and reconnection in our pathways forward. Read more below, and join Jae at the Gathering this June! Be sure to follow his work at @jonathanmanuel.1990 and no_por_na_music for more. 

Jea Ortiz is a multi-talented artist, intentional space shaper, and educator. As an organizer of events like Forest Fusion (check it out this year at the Hostel in the Forest, May 26-28!), the Block Party at Florida Earthskills and Firefly Gatherings, a DJ and dance party host, and a full-time farmer/gardener, Jae’s work combines his passions for plants, music, and food in offering expansive experiences. We are excited to have Jae back at our Gathering again this year as an active Board Member on our Equity Committee and as a coordinator of intentional spaces like The Neighborhood and the Block Party (learn more below, and check out our post on our expanding equity efforts here).

Jae is a long-time attendee and leader at Earthskills gatherings. Having worked and taught for the Florida Earthskills Gathering for the last 8 years, he first stepped into the role of Safe Space Coordinator there in 2020. Recognizing the need to expand to have younger, more diverse people and offerings at Earthskills gatherings, Jae helped start Florida’s first Bipoc camp, or “safe space neighborhood”. At Florida and now at Firefly Gathering, The Neighborhood embraces the different experiences that are specific to different groups, providing spaces for women, men, LGBTQIA+, and Culture Camp for people of the global majority to relax and connect.

Signs pointing to camps in The Neighborhood at Firefly Gathering
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Jae addresses morning circle with Director Marissa Percoco at Firefly Gathering. Photo credit Parker Michels-Boyce

The Neighborhood at Florida Earthskills is where the idea for the Block Party first emerged. This evening event brought people together to share multicultural stories, foods, and music as a practice of building a strong and diverse community. 

Based on his work in Florida, we invited Jae to help direct our emerging Equity Committee and to expand upon his programs for our Gathering in 2021. Last year, The Neighborhood at Firefly Gathering brought the first Block Party to Firefly. 

The Block Party at Firefly stands out from what has become the tradition of evening programming within Earthskills in both its multi-cultural focus, and as a space for music to take form acoustically or electronically. “The seasons are changing,” says Jae, “and we need to grow and adapt as a whole community.” At earthskills gatherings, Jae recognizes that people come to gather “not just for the physical skills they learn. It’s a family reunion. It’s where we practice the lifestyles we want to live with other people in the world.” 

Last year, the Block Party resulted in a beautiful offering that combined cumbia, carne asada, mofongo, and Taino folks telling the colonization story of Puerto Rico, with a full DJ set in the forest to follow. Jae shares his favorite memory from the Block Party last year:  

‘I just remember looking behind me and seeing everyone smiling so huge, and dancing, and it felt like a real house party in the woods with all the most magical people. I felt like in that moment, I was able to combine every single world and realm that I am tapped into in one. That’s why I do what I do when it comes to throwing events around music and food- this is how I grew up.”

Jae's activist street wear brand Future Ancestor
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Forest Fusion May 26-28 at Hostel in the Forest

Bring an open heart, open belly, your culture, and dancing feet to The Neighborhood on Friday night at the Annual Firefly Gathering, June 20-25.

We are delighted to have Jae Ortiz as an intentional space shaper, Board member, and artist at Firefly. In addition to The Neighborhood and Block Party on Friday night, as well as his merch to raise money for the Equity Fund at Firefly’s Trading Post, you can follow Jae’s DJ and dance events on his Instagram accounts @jonathanmanuel.1990 and no_por_na_music for more.  

In the meantime, don’t miss out on Forest Fusion this May 26-28 at Hostel in the Forest! Learn more and make reservations here


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Lily Harlin


Lily is an artist, creator, and dreamer. Since a very young age, she has been immersed in the natural world and draws heavy inspiration from the wild. Though her medium changes frequently, Lily’s art and expression always incorporate an element of the organic and unpredictable. She got her associate in fine arts in 2023, and now volunteers at her school as a ceramic studio monitor. She hopes to open a studio of her own one day to have a place to teach and inspire others. In addition to doing commission work, Lily has been creating many graphics for The Firefly Gathering since 2019. Lily grew up in the Earthskills community from the time she was eight years old, so having the opportunity to grow and give back in so many ways has been incredibly fulfilling. No matter where she ends up, this group of people and ideas will always hold a special place in her heart.