Just a few weeks ago, we experienced our first ever Conference and it was truly a weekend to remember! We are so grateful to the wonderful attendees who dived right in and were open to creating an inclusive and action-oriented space. We are excited to share with you all some of our favorite moments of InterAction’s Community Theater for Social Justice Action Conference.
The weekend began with a small dinner with Ntozake Shange, her colleague, Renee Charlow, and invited local creatives. During dinner, guests recited their poetry and Shange shared with us how to take care of ourselves while creating art.
We then started off strong on Friday afternoon with a wonderful Pre-Conference Institute led by Dr. David Hooker from the Kroc Institute and Bo Peterson, an established South African actor, on reimagining our communities through counter-narratives. They demonstrated how to identify areas where communities can transform.
As if the day couldn’t get any better we welcomed over 120 people to the South Bend Civic Theatre for our Keynote Address. Ntozake Shange shared about her experiences with key mentors who taught her what it meant to be an artist and performer. Her talk connected performance art with social issues of body positivity, embracing sexuality, and calling out intimate partner violence. She highlighted the importance of movement building among communities of color and overcoming assimilation and separation among the African diaspora and with other immigrant communities. Shange also gave her seal of approval as she congratulated InterAction and our partners for the work we are doing in the South Bend community. She closed her speech with these final words:
“We are entitled to dance; we are entitled to create beauty; we are entitled to our lives; we are entitled to our own agency; we are entitled to be free.”
The 60+ attendees came from Notre Dame, IUSB, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross College. They also traveled as far as Florida, Seattle, New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and the Appalachian region of Kentucky. These educators, theater makers, and local community organizers engaged in lively discussion and workshops on Muslim visibility, prison reform, reproductive justice, mental health, toxic masculinity, and anti-blackness.
We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to have the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health perform their piece, FORECAST, on reproductive justice and racial justice to provide context for our affinity based strategy circles. Our InterAction facilitators led affinity circles on uprooting racism and anti-blackness in our communities.
We ended the night with a special and powerful performance by the Prison Story Project that reminded us of the need to center the stories of the marginalized and create opportunities for their voices to be shared and digested so that we can affect change.
We are grateful for our partners, sponsors, and guests for making this event possible. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved and support this initiative in the following years please email firstname.lastname@example.org!