Dec 30, 2013

Art with Heart

Since moving to Seattle 3.5 years ago, one of the many facets of the city that I've fallen in love with is its profound compassion and social consciousness. It is, in fact, a blessing and a curse--while navigating the turbulent waters of grad school, dissecting my thoughts one by one and rebuilding this new self of intersectionalities and muddled theory, it seemed that the world around me was rebuilding itself, too. Yet any quick dive into Facebook was a shocking reminder that my cloistered, University, Social Work, Non-Profit Seattle world was often in stark ideological contrast to much of the rest of the country.

I struggled with how to express this in class. "You don't talk much" was every professor's post-class assessment, and as much as they told me to speak up more, three years later, I voice my opinions just as much as Day 1. Yet for all of my shyness, no teacher questioned who I was or what I believed in, because it came out in what I wrote. Writing was my power, a more familiar and comfortable way of connecting both with myself and others, something I had honed during the various traumas of youth and held onto as an adult because it at once allows me to connect with others and distance myself from their response. It feels safe.

Time and again, writing has been shown to help children and young adults who are coping with childhood trauma. Trauma has wide-ranging social and physiological effects, including an inability to recognize, name, and express their feelings. They may react powerfully (violence, aggression, yelling, self-harm) or they may just simply dissociate (tune out); with either, this inability to talk about their feelings and needs lasts well into adulthood, with devastating consequences on their ability to form healthy relationships. Through writing, children and teens are finally able to unburden and redefine themselves.

If you want to learn about some of the work that local writers are doing within marginalized communities and with victims of childhood trauma, I've included a list of Seattle-based non-profits below:

Writing Resistance: Part writing group, part community action, Writing Resistance is a Beacon Hill-based group for those affected by disability and ableism. It also looks like they were taking submissions for their first Zine back in March of '13, though I was unable to locate any further mention of it online.

Books to Prisoners: Okay, so it's not actually a writing-focused non-profit, but Books to Prisoners, run by Seattle's Left Bank Books, still focuses on literacy and social justice, which is all that matter to me to make the cut.

826 Seattle: If you write, you probably already know about literary non-profit powerhouse 826 Seattle. Founded by Dave Eggers, 826 Seattle offers tutoring, workshops, bookmaking and writing labs, reaching over 3,100 children throughout King County.

Arts Corps: Focused primarily on low-income youth of color, Art Corps has brought racial justice to the arts, through youth workshops, writing classes, after school programs, classroom curriculae and artists in residence, and youth poetry slams.

Art with Heart: Art therapy is a powerful tool in working with young children who are struggling with trauma. Whether they're facing the death of a parent or chronic illness, Art with Heart develops books to help children sort through their feelings and safely express themselves.

Pongo Teen Writing: This amazing organization works with teens, often homeless or incarcerated, to "express themselves through poetry and other forms of writing." They also publish anthologies of the teens' work, most of which are given away to other teens in need, but are also sold to help cover a small percentage of their publishing costs.

No comments: