In 2017 Montgomery County's Police reported an 26% increase in bias incidents compared to the prior year. Of the incidents reported, roughly half were motivated by bias toward religion and half were motivated by bias toward a race or ethnicity. Story Tapestries took this report as a call to action and collaborated with other local organizations, including the Strathmore and Impact Silver Spring, to call upon our wide networks of concerned individuals to begin meeting and form a Task Force.
An increase in bias incidents and hate crimes, in particular related to youth, has created a volatile environment in Montgomery County schools and communities. Children and adults alike live in fear of sharing their own stories and struggle to advocate for themselves and those they care about. Language, cultural and economic barriers can create a sensation of distance and separation. The arts break down these barriers, honoring our uniqueness while connecting us, highlighting our commonalities.
Free workshops are offered in accessible public spaces in communities facing high rates of bias incidents and in spaces with existing programs addressing social justice issues - leveraging their existing audience and augmenting their programs. Workshop participants work with artists in multiple art forms to share their stories and hone their ability to share them with an audience. They then have opportunities to perform in free public performances alongside professionals, amplifying their story.
Workshops create a non-judgmental space in which participants are comfortable to share their experiences, perspectives and feelings. The facilitator and teaching artist give children and adults tools to appropriately handle conflicts, advocate for their needs and become more compassionate listeners. Art breaks down barriers and creates safe spaces to express emotions in ways that other strategies do not. Art becomes a part of the solution to the social-emotional problems communities are facing.
This project has provided additional documentation in a PDF file (projdoc.pdf).