Herstory Highlights 2021-2022
Amy Maiello Hagedorn Training Institute
Takes Herstory Into the Next Quarter Century
The notion of passing along the dare to care-- at the heart of Herstory’s mission and work-- is deceptively simple. The pedagogy and way of life that has grown up around it, touching thousands, is multi-faceted and profound.
Our training program began informally, in 2004, when a handful of workshop members began to work with our founder to articulate tools that would exchange a collective study of what creates empathy in a reading stranger for more conventional approaches to narrative practice. Little did any of us know, when our first cohort of facilitators began to work in the jails and with women writing in Spanish, that almost 20 years later we would have a formalized training institute, in partnership with the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University and the national Coalition for Community Writing, creating an ever expanding network of workshops in the schools, in the jails, and in the community, reaching out locally, nationally, and even beginning to reach out nationally.
We are honored to name our training institute after Amy Maiello Hagedorn, who was present as a writer when the seeds for the training program were sown, in celebration of all she contributed to the movement for justice and equity on Long Island and to Herstory’s vision and growth. Our world wouldn’t be the same without her, and all that she has given to us all.
Expanding Classroom Pedagogy with Brave Journeys
When Herstory first published Brave Journeys in 2018, we could only imagine the direction this book would take us and the real impact these stories would have on our classroom communities. For the past three years, this bilingual collection of deeply moving stories by young people who crossed the US-Mexico border alone has served as an exemplary text for several local school districts in preparation for the NY Regents Exam. Educators have used these 15 first-person stories to demonstrate the characteristics of narrative writing, to facilitate language learning, and to teach students the relationship between textual and emotional literacy. Most importantly, it has empowered newcomer students as they use memoir to process their immigration experiences and work through the confusion and guilt of leaving loved ones behind, all while inspiring them to claim their narratives as a way to connect with fellow students.
This past year, the Herstory team designed an online instructor’s guide for Long Island’s teachers that includes several pedagogical resources: bilingual summaries of each story as printable PDFs; video interviews with the book’s young authors; professional development videos and curricular materials; and story-by-story study guides that highlight core learning standards. We have been able to offer this dynamic online resource guide free of charge because of a generous grant from the Long Island Community Foundation. This pedagogical resource is currently in use in Westbury,Patchogue/Medford, Long Beach, Hempstead and Central
Islip School districts, but our dream is to expand Brave Journeys and its accompanying guide into all our schools. On November 4, Herstory presented this goal at the NY State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages conference, where former NYS TESOL president Susanne Marcus, now an active member of our Herstory team, shared how using Brave Journeys in classrooms far exceeds any measurable outcomes of standardized testing; it also infuses empathy, trust, and inclusion into our classrooms and communities by embracing the whole self of our diverse students and their families.
Moving forward into 2022…we are excited to bring Brave Journeys into Nassau’s BOCES Twilight Alternative Schools program in Uniondale, Glen Cove, and Freeport. We invite you to walk with us on this path forward with us.
In this season of collective trauma and illness, danger, and environmental catastrophes, what voices might lead us to healing, new solutions, and hope? Can our stories help us come together when what happens to our health and our planet depends on our interconnectedness, and when each one of us is a critical part of the human chain?
We are happy to add to our growing series of Online Workshops for Our Time a new writing community for first responders who have been working on the front line, including medical personnel at all levels, doctors, nurses, nurses aids, home care workers, EMS and hospital workers on the ground, police, food pantry workers, counselors and teachers.
Public Health and Human Rights in a Time of COVID
We are creating a special space for those students who have risked their lives in order to continue in school or help their families, who are serving as essential workers in fast food, instacart delivery, group homes, cleaning houses, and more…
In partnership with the Humanities Institute and Pandemic Narratives Initiative at Stony Brook University…
We have met once so far, and the conversations and story shaping has already gone very deep, as we gather the people who are meant to be in that zoom room. Knowing what the schedules are like for first responders, we invite you to come whenever you can. Come once or twice to shape a particilar story that needs to be told, or continue week after week to work develop a book length project.
While you can argue with a political position, you can't argue with a story, so that we need the voices of those who are seeing the most, if we are to come together to protect our world.
Equitable Earth Freedom Forum in Wyandanch
On October 17, Herstory and the Wyandanch community used storytelling to expose the wounds caused by racial and environmental injustice as a first step towards healing. Gathered in the public plaza behind the recently renovated LIRR station, the community listened as each writer’s story cried out for answers to what gets overlooked in revitalization plans like the well-known Wyandanch Rising: how toxic dumping in minority neighborhoods continues; how our youth feel despair about inheriting a sick planet; how generational trauma is real—but so is generational joy! This forceful group of health care workers and local business owners, high school
students and seasoned educators raised their voices in a united effort to shift the conversation, as their urgent call for action resonated off the plaza’s buildings and filled the crisp autumn air we all breathed in together.
But these cries for an equitable earth and for racial justice did not stop at Wyandanch that afternoon. Herstory teamed up with the Babylon Citizens Council on the Arts (BACCA) to bring in local film maker and six-time Emmy nominee Waldo Cabrera to transform this live event into a full-length video that will carry these stories into the hearts and homes across Long Island and beyond. Together, our collaborative vision sees this as just the beginning, as the Wyandanch community will use the film and Herstory’s empathy-based storytelling methods to keep cultivating a growing advocacy movement that will lead towards social justice.
Moving forward into 2022…we will take our first ever film into more neighborhoods and schools on Long Island to inspire and co-create similar civic engagement programs.
Restorative Justice and Gun Violence Prevention Program
Recently, Herstory has partnered with Suffolk County’s Office of Human Services as part of a state-wide action to engage communities that grapple with gun violence. Deeply moved by Wyandanch’s SNUG program (guns spelled backwards), where community members take to the streets and hold conversations at sites where shootings occur, our team has developed a unique 6-month program tailored to advance the initiative of this community-centered coalition. We started this fall with the “Youth in Transition/ Leadership and Change” writing workshop, where young people solicited by gangs and offenders of gun violence have been writing honest and vulnerable stories as a way to reclaim their spirits and build personal strength. Separately, the upcoming “Healing Stories: Transforming our Tears” workshop will evolve out of our relationship with nearby schools to create a much-needed space for family and friends who have lost loved ones to shootings, giving them the courage to craft personal stories that will transform unbearable loss into urgent action.
The culmination of this project will be the six-week “Writing for Restorative Justice and Change” focused workshop, which will bring together selected volunteers from the above groups in order to share their stories and develop a plan of action for how their words can create change. Writing memoir entails dealing with past actions and events that cannot be undone, yet by taking narrative responsibility participants can transform guilt and anger into mobilizing their experiences in a way that benefits the greater community. The goal of this project is to empower all participants with the realization that they can shift feelings of victimization into enacting real change in the world by sharing the one thing they will always have control over: their own personal narrative.
Moving forward into 2022…we will continue to forge alliances with community groups who share our core belief that by sharing personal stories we can improve our world.
In-School Programs and Online Campus & Community Workshops for Our Time
Our successful instruction and valued presence in Long Island classrooms over the past 11 years is what allowed us to navigate the challenges of virtual instruction and really transcend as schools reopened their doors this summer. And here the numbers do not lie: from Spring 2021 through Fall 2021 semesters, the Herstory team has served close to 500 students! This includes our Summer 2021 workshops with New York Edge, where our facilitators used Herstory’s proven methods to quickly build lasting points of connection with the city’s youth who yearn for someone to actually hear them. It also includes an urgent workshop we created in Harlem for Children in Temporary Housing, where young girls and boys learned that, despite their precarious situation, their dreams are still so important to have and to share with others. And while we are excited to be back in person with all our students, our ability to connect through virtual networking platforms is a gift we continue to cherish and strengthen. Throughout 2021, our Herstory team has embraced these digital tools to expand our network in endless ways, together transforming Long Island into a powerful nexus for the larger work we are doing.
The most unique aspect of our online Campus & Community workshops is the effective way we build bridges between classrooms and the larger society. In partnership with the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, our intergenerational workshops create dynamic spaces where students write together with participants from across the country and from all walks of life, increasing the chance for their stories to touch hearts far and wide. The following themed workshops grew throughout 2021, widening the panorama of voices behind these much-needed stories: those of recent immigrants, folks with disabilities, Black Lives Matter activists, and writers across the LGBTQ+ spectrum:
While focusing on themes that unite certain groups, we also celebrate important differences within these communities, which speaks to an important challenge in the fight for social justice. When building a coalition of change, when shaping a movement based on empathy, celebrating our differences is just as important as strengthening that which unites us, as together they both influence how we relate to one another and live together in an increasingly diverse society. We will continue to grow the following workshops throughout the coming year and hopefully beyond:
Moving forward into 2022…we will embrace even more digital tools to increase the impact our network can make, as we look to create podcasts and refine our hybrid model of in-person/on-line workshops.