Women with histories of incest and sexual abuse attended a recent workshop with TAP artist L’Merchie Frazier in January 2019 at The Women’s Center in partnership with TAP. Journeying in a safe space together, a small group of participants used poetry and collage to explore their experiences, and express their best selves.
The Friday Café is a welcoming space at TAP’s partnering organization, First Church in Cambridge, where homeless and insecurely housed neighbors can gather and get to know each other. It offers food and coffee, rest and resources to people living on the margins – but most importantly it offers community. At the Friday Café, people experiencing a wide variety of life circumstances can relax, share a meal and talk together as friends.
Rev. Kate Layzer, Director & Founder of The Friday Café, wrote a personal reflection on a recent workshop offered by TAP staff to the Café community:
“We were honored to welcome TAP staff L’Merchie Frazier, Barbara Hamm & Keena Banda to the Friday Café last week for a free poetry, mindfulness and fabric art workshop in the Harter Room. This was the first time we had offered a program outside the main room of the Café, and we weren’t sure what to expect, but quite a few of our guests responded to our invitation and took part. Participants learned about the haiku form, and began to write their own haikus; they also began to practice placing cut pieces of fabric together to create something new. These workshops are designed to help survivors of trauma and violence confront, express, and transform the impact of these painful experiences in their lives by means of art. Learn more at the project website. TAP will be returning to the Friday Café on January 25 to continue working with members of our community.
TRANSFORMATION I know our community pretty well, and I knew that inviting people to make art as a response to past violence in their lives was going to be a hard sell. At the same time, I knew that pretty much every guest in that room is living with the effects of trauma. This workshop was designed with them in mind. So when I took the mic to give my pitch, I did something I’ve never done before in that space: I outed myself as a trauma survivor. I didn’t go into detail. But I let the community know that we had that in common. If I had turned to the volunteers who were present and asked how many had lived through trauma or violence—of course I would never do that!—I’m sure there would have been quite a few other hands raised. Empathy draws people together. If we’ve been through hard times, hard times become part of us forever. We never forget what that feels like. If we’re lucky, it doesn’t make us hard: It makes us want to befriend other people who are hurting, and to lighten their loneliness a little. Our lifetimes listen to each other, as Margaret Peters puts it, and in that listening, we both feel more a little more at home in the world. I wonder what sadness or struggles from the past have become a part of your composition. I wonder how those parts of you resonate with our neighbors at the Friday Café, and whether our life in community is playing a role in your ongoing transformation. I know I am so grateful to the Friday Café for bringing all of us together—including many of you whom I would probably never have met otherwise, but who have moved me and enriched my life in so many ways. Thank you for that! Thank you for all you are, for all you do, and for all you give. ”
Utilizing Mindfulness and Art-making practices, The Big Idea workshop series spans 8 weeks and offers a series of crisis intervention activities designed to support building participant competence to explore identity, resilience, self-discovery, and transformative power in the wake of exposure to violence. We strive to create a safe and creative environment through mindfulness training and art-making. This series will culminate in an exhibit created and curated by workshop participants.
WHEN WOMEN SUCCEED: The Quilted Path | A 2019 Violence Transformed Exhibit
Please join us for the exhibit opening:
Sunday, January 6, 2019 12:30 PM Featuring a Conversation with Artist L’Merchie Frazier
Margaret Jewett Hall | First Church in Cambridge | 11 Garden St., Cambridge
A new exhibit is gracing the walls of Margaret Jewett Hall. “When Women Succeed: The Quilted Path” is a multi-disciplinary and public fiber art project. This exhibit is the result of PowerUp workshops and events that center on recovery efforts from Boston’s substance use community conducted with the extraordinary women of the City of Boston Recovery Service residence, Entre Familia. The project was created by L’Merchie Frazier, Boston Artist-in-Residence, mixed-media artist, working with several women who are housed at Entre Familia with their children. The women created poetry and collage activities with thematic designs and layout to build the skills of poetry writing and quilt-making. A visual artist, performance artist, educator, and activist, Ms. Frazier is the Director of Education at the Museum of African American History in Boston and an artist in the African-American Master Artist-in-Residence Program at Northeastern University. She is also Director of Creative Engagement for The Transformative Action Project or TAP, a new initiative of Violence Transformed and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law. First Church in Cambridge is honored to host L’Merchie’s work and that of the women of Entre Familia! Violence Transformed is delighted to partner with First Church on this event!
Join TAP staff at The Women’s Center for morning of creative activity, mindful practice and trauma information:
Workshop Date: Sunday, November 18, 2018, 9 am-12 noon.
“Perspectives: Transforming Violence Through Mindful Art- Making”integrates trauma-informed mindfulness exercises with trauma-informed art-making activities both designed to offer participants greater familiarity with the ways in which creative engagement can support the recovery and
resiliency of those who have suffered and/or live at risk of exposure to violence. TAP staff Barbara Hamm, Psy.D. & Mary Harvey, Ph.D., will co-facilitate the workshop.
On Friday, October 19, 2018, the TAP staff participated in an innovative conference bringing together experts in the field of trauma. Rethinking Trauma Treatment: The Power of Compassion and Community was hosted jointly by the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and Lesley University, both located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The conference offered a global outlook on trauma treatment and the importance of treatment having cultural relevance and accessibility for the populations being served. The conference revolved around the work of Susan Gitau, Ph.D. from Kenya who has been a powerful voice for traumatized and underserved populations in her country. (www.sgcfoundation.org).
The TAP presentation kicked off the conference and set the tone for lively interactive participant engagement. The presentation was a brief example of how TAP workshops are designed to follow the arc of recovery from trauma and to be sensitive to the issues most saliently experienced within each phase of recovery.
Barbara began with a guided mindfulness practice which she combined with the song and vibration of a singing bowl. This offered the opportunity for participants to locate themselves in both their inner and environmental space. The theme of becoming aware of “The Space You Occupy” was introduced. L’Merchie expanded the theme through imagery and language and a process which invited each participant to create a poetic representation of their space and, ultimately, to the space between themselves and another. Mary, as discussant, made the implicit connection to the reparative aspects of mindful awareness, creativity, the connective tissue between personal and community resiliencies and the recovery from traumatic events.
The earlier vibration of the singing bowl was soon replaced by the vibration of laughter, the sigh of recognition and exhale of acceptance.