Freedom Forum 2023
Testify: Memoir as a Tool for Building a Movement
For six years, Herstory Writers Network has partnered with the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University to stage large-scale public gatherings featuring grassroots literature produced by members of Long Island’s most vulnerable and isolated populations, followed by a call to action that guides the vision and programming for the years to come.
Some of the outcomes include the call for a book of newcomer students stories, when they were first shared in 2017, leading to the publication of Brave Journeys which now has sold nearly 10,000 copies nationwide and is being used as text in schools throughout the country. It led to the beginning of Herstory’s work connecting racism and environmental justice and to the Elephant in the Room project and website in partnership with Wyandanch High School, plus the formation of “Herstory in Southern Sun,” a sister chapter of Herstory in the Gullah Geechee Corridor in South Carolina,supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Jacob Volkman Human Rights Fellowship Program, bringing together North and South.
Read the stories from the Freedom Forum:
The audience assembles in the Wyandanch Plaza.
A student raps his memoir.
A student reads her memoir, while a teacher and facilitator echo her words in Spanish and Haitian Creole.
My Body is Here, But My Soul is Beyond There
I was 8 years old; 'April 19, 2018' was a sunny day. I was returning home from school with my sister walking along that cobblestone road that we knew so well. I got ready to watch television and channel 12 was broadcasting live. It seemed strange to me to see people jumping over walls while others dispersed throughout the street, so I asked the girl who was taking care of us: “Why are these people running from the police?” I asked innocently.
The Age of Legality
I am still psychologically infected this semester. Why? Because waking up every morning feeling ready and steady, performing personal hygiene to be clean, wearing wrinkled clothes, looking back and forth at the digital clock from the Cablevision cable box only to manage time to eat breakfast. Well it’s 11:50 am. I gotta get outta here. Gotta leave, I said to myself. I was manhandling my conscience to stay convinced. My mind was playing tricks on me. Finally, I exited out of the bedroom.