Herstory art captures the beauty of the intimate Gala. (Brittany Buckley)
Stony Brook - Embrace new beginnings with open arms. The 14 Annual Herstory Writer's Gala shed the spotlight on incarcerated and free women who developed a strong sense of voice through their life experiences as they shared their stories during an afternoon luncheon and workshop held at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University on Sunday, October 17. Among the select group of women chosen to speak stood a prison guard, a legislator, an immigrants' rights activist and many others sharing intimate stories that touched the hearts of every participant in attendance.
Herstory activists embrace an imprisoned young woman. (Herstory Writers Inside Prison Project)
The life changing event was held in honor of Director of the Long Island Center for Nonprofit Leadership, Ann Marie Thigpen, a woman who has devoted hard work, commitment and endless efforts towards building a strong and reliable team of women who are invested in the success of the community memoir-writing program. In her acceptance speech Thigpen remarked "Herstory stands apart from the rest. It's an organization about the power of language, it's about the empowerment of women, and it's about sharing stories with a 'stranger' reader that breaks down barriers that keep us apart."
Herstory Founder and Artistic Director, Erika Duncan, put her heart and soul into the program and is proud of HersSory's growth over the years. With such an empowering team on board, and contributing sponsors including, Verizon Wireless and many more, the Herstory organization is able to maintain the funds necessary to further its legacy and break down the stereotypes that build barriers between the readers and the storytellers. Herstory goes beyond the workshops;, and has developed into a movement of freedom writers.
Once a year, the Herstory Gala is devoted to empowering women who speak out and confront inner struggles with grace, intelligence and compassion. Some of the special presentations this year included categories such as Act of Witness, Outsider Stories from the Holocaust, Bridges Out of Incarceration and Writing for Immigrants' Rights and Job Equity.
Novels by Herstory Writers showcased at the Gala. (Brittany Buckley)
The powerful team of fearless speakers included Women in Prison Project Associate Director of Policy, Serena Alfieri, Stony Brook University students and Herstory writers, Tenzeeila Ali and Bahtara Keita, union organizer, Joyce Collier, Political Scientist, Ana H. Giraldo, corrections officer, Lieutenant Darlene McClurkin, Former Executive Director of Long Island Community Foundation, Suzy Dalton Sonenberg, Deputy Presiding Officer of the Legislature, Vivian Viloria-Fisher and Anjelique Wadlington, a formerly incarcerated Herstory writer.
Prior to the readings, participants, board members, guests and writers enjoyed an Asian buffet that captured the essence of the multicultural Charles B. Wang Center, which celebrates the beauty of Asian and American culture. Following the luncheon, guests admired a display of art that displayed embellished, handmade flags representing every corner of the world.
Founded in 1996, the Herstory Writers Workshop continues to give opportunities that guide silenced women out of suppression and into triumph. Writing memoirs about trials and tribulations that can only be told through the eyes of the storyteller heals the participants and educates readers as the women undergo workshops that include creating literary art, education, and desegregating the community.
Herstory has already spread into school programs, scholarly papers, prison programs and is assimilating into rehabilitation centers. Regardless of current financial or employment status and race of the participants, Herstory gives oppressed women the opportunity to speak up and speak out.
Ana Maria of JVC Broadcasting expresses her love and admiration for the Herstory methods of writing.
With every voice that spoke Sunday afternoon, the message was heard loud and clear. As Wadlington read her living testimony of social injustice "How Do You See Me?" her words echoed across the room, bringing the crowd to a standing ovation by the end of her reading.
When asked what she would wish for if she had the power to change social injustice Wadlington writes, "In society when one does something wrong, they tend to punish all and then they place us into one category: 'criminals.' They would rather look at a piece of paper than into my eyes. They would rather convict me of a crime than give me a second chance to make a difference. We all make mistakes. But if they want to move forward they have to open up and give me a chance, and stop holding me back."