Our Stories in Action
For two and a half decades, in English and Spanish, in the jails, in
schools and in the community, Herstory writers have been
writing to be heard. Empowered by the techniques that turn
their private experiences into gripping narratives meant to
waken a stranger into caring, with each word, with each
scene they create there is an intensity and passion that
startles visitors to our public presentations and events.
There is an urgency of empathy now in our land.
Can our stories help to stem the dangerous and darkening tide?
This section of our website is intended to give you a taste of
our stories, with hints of how they might be used to break
down barriers and call people to action. Whether you are an
activist looking for a story to highlight a cause, a researcher,
educator or student, whether you work in government or
human service or law, we hope that these stories will be
helpful to you in the movement for equality and justice, and
that they will help you to add your own voice to whatever
most needs to be said.
To enter our new "Stories for Liberation"
series in partnership with Long Island WINS, click here.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone gives proclamation to Herstory and Long Island Wins.
ON THE URGENCY OF EMPATHY - WHY NOW?
In February of 2017, shortly after the election that licensed the practice of cruelty, persecution and hatred, Herstory’s founder Erika Duncan, reached out to the larger Herstory family joining with our board of directors with a strengthened mission statement that has guided our work ever since.
“Dear Friends of Herstory,” she wrote, “I write to you at this moment of time when, in the words of Nancy Pelosi, the Statue of Liberty has tears in her eyes. Can our stories help hold up the torch of compassion and welcome, and bring back the light that the oppressors are trying to extinguish? Can they help our most vulnerable citizens hold on through the darkness, uncertainty and danger?
As I travel from one workshop to another, seeing how our young immigrant students try to let their voices rise in the moment of their fear, seeing how the incidents of racism, violence and hate crimes are rising every day, and the whole sense of our future is becoming increasingly unknown, I think of how literature and the arts have traditionally held a special place in times of suppression of people’s most basic human rights: health, freedom and an equal opportunity to prosper.
I think of the words of then board member, Nina Wolf, who, in response to violence against immigrants in Farmingville, asked us to take on the mandate to work in communities where violence and hatred had erupted. I think of how we first started to work in Patchogue shortly after the murder of Marcelo Lucero, and how carefully we chose each new program with the hope that each story could help conquer, and change hearts, minds and policies. I think about how the notion of “Passing along the Dare to Care” —the cornerstone of Herstory’s pedagogy and philosophy— is now more needed than ever to help us to take action to stem the destructive tide.
Together, over these 21 years, we have worked to take our empathy-based tool kit to those who were most vulnerable and in need of a voice, teaching our writers, one by one, how to raise their voices so that a reading or listening stranger might care.
So what happens when those in power are teaching us to fear the other/the stranger? How can we band together to help those in power see the Statue of Liberty’s tears?
As we reach into our 21st year, our hope must grow even stronger than ever, as our work expands and together we look to form new workshops-- for our students, for the immigrants in our communities and the people who are being targeted on the basis of religion, ethnicity and race. We must find ways to help our frightened students shape the words to keep sharing their fears and relighting the torch of their own liberty and that of generations to follow. We must help the women and girls in our workshops in the jails and the former gang members in our communities to believe that if they look at the cycles of hopelessness and violence that have led to their incarceration second chances can still come, even in a climate where second chances are not kindly looked upon.
So we gather our stories and the actions around them to allow you to walk in the shoes of just a few of those hundreds of brave writers who have worked with us this year, who have forged a path in which the “Other” is no longer a stranger, as our tears blend with the light that our words more than ever must forge.
Erika Duncan, February 2017