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Can memoir become a tool for action? How can a living literature by those whose voices have been silenced make its way into the canon-- to be taught in high schools, colleges and universities; to be circulated side by side with the writings of those who are already acknowledged by the establishment? Can the stories of the disenfranchised, the vulnerable and isolated, be shaped in a way that will startle those in power into rethinking policy and practice? Could the power structure be righted if a literature that forced every reader to walk in the storyteller’s shoes was made part of the culture?
This digital archive shows that it is possible. It presents highlights from two decades of grass roots story-shaping and gathering by Herstory Writers Workshop, an organization that has created a human rights tool kit to help new writers dare their communities to care. Thousands of stories have been born in Long Island’s jails, its shelters and school rooms, its union halls and work places, libraries and art centers. These stories have been used in prison reform, as part of a training program for officers, and in sensitizing teachers, school counselors and administrators to the realities of the lives of young people who crossed the border by themselves and the children of the incarcerated. They have been used by governmental officials and judges to ensure that the voices of those who lack representation or access are heard. They have been used in the healing of communities divided by violence and hatred.
As Herstory moves beyond Long Island with connections to statewide and national movements, it is our hope that the stories included in this archive will be widely read and passed from one person to another through the websites of a growing cadre of partners and through social media, that they will be taught in high schools and colleges, used as sermons in mosques, synagogues and churches, and in interactions with legislators and human service providers. It is our hope that they will be used in movement building, wherever it is necessary to give a voice and a face to those who are too often demonized and excluded from the discourse, building bridges of empathy, compassion and inclusion to counter the recent violations of our most basic human rights.
Herstory - Bringing unheard voices into the public arena, transforming livid experiences into written memoir powerful enough to change hearts, minds, and policy. For more information, please visit http://www.herstorywriters.org/
Art by Gwynne Duncan
Gwynne Duncan received her BFA in painting from Bard College in 1990. She has shown her work in galleries including A.I.R. Gallery and Gale Gates, and curated several shows including the 2014 Cedar Tavern Phone Booth Show at the Westbeth Gallery. She has done paintings for Herstory Writers Workshop for 20 years, including illustrations for "Stories for Liberation" that are featured weekly on the website of Long Island Wins.
Herstory Writers Workshop wish to gratefully thank the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra and the Zion Episcopal Church of Douglaston, NY for their assistance in making this database possible.