The Perrin Family Foundation is excited about the recent additions to our network of partners. There are numerous grassroot groups that are interested and committed to youth led social change here in CT. This past fall we welcomed 3 new grantee partners. Please join us in learning more about Writer’s Block, InK in New London, People’s Art Collective in New Haven and CT Center for Non-Violence in Hartford.
Writer’s Block, Ink mission is to arm young voices with the power of pen and prose, reinforcing teamwork, accountability, and responsibility “to ignite social change on the page and stage”. The organizational strategy has three prongs; empower youth, develop leaders, and ignite social change. Writer’s Block youth begin with a blank sheet of paper and create original theatrical productions focused on key issues in their communities. With the assistance of volunteers, educators and community partners, they write original scripts, choreograph dances, build sets, and market and perform their work on local stages throughout Southeastern Connecticut, ultimately engaging the community in spreading awareness about key issues that youth and their families encounter. Since 2003, The Writer’s Block Ink has engaged more than 1,000 youth from Southeastern Connecticut to use writing and performance as tools to address personal and social challenges. A key element of the Writer’s Block structure involves developing young leaders. Youth flow through the program over time moving from participants to, Block Captains, Creative or Production Instructors, and Program Directors. Youth Leadership & Empowerment programming addresses youth violence prevention and intervention by employing youth from high-risk and non-traditional backgrounds, cultivating youth leaders through program participation, and designing creative programming on the page and stage that address issues and themes both implicitly and explicitly connect youth and communities to their individual and collective roles in violence prevention. The program focus is to provide opportunities to marginalized youth as participants and as employees between 10 – 29 yrs.
People’s Arts Collective (PAC) began in July 2012, the vision of three queer low-to-no-income artists of color who, through a combination of luck and Yale privilege, for 15 months ran grassroots, arts-based, community-building programming out of a dilapidated storefront in downtown New Haven. In a city struggling with a record number of homicides, 30% unemployment and underemployment in communities of color, scarce youth opportunities, and a culture of fear despite tremendous growth in the university and hospital industries, the 212 College Street space was perhaps the only public space in the city that sought to specifically encourage the creative agency of youth, people of color, women, and queer people. Punctuated with weekly events, workshops, guest speakers, open mics, dance parties, and concerts, PAC created a cultural space out of which emerged three longer-term, youth-led initiatives: Free Artists of New Haven, LGBTQ* Youth Kickback and the New Haven Free Skool. “At the heart of our work was the question: “How can we unite art-making with community organizing in order to lift the people of New Haven out of distrust, alienation, and hopelessness?” In late November 2013, PAC’s space at 212 College Street was demolished for luxury apartment buildings. They moved towards neighborhood-based artistic and community organizing practice. The LGBTQ* Youth Kickback transferred its operations to The Institute Library, and the Free Artists collaborated with Free Skoolers in the Fair Haven neighborhood. PAC is consensus-based, youth-led, and has a strong reputation as a training ground for inspiring leaders and inclusive, participatory and forward-looking cultural activity. • The Free Artists of New Haven are dedicated to reclaiming art for the community, reimagining it as a medium for engagement and a tool for social change. We facilitate community art-making in people’s neighborhoods, inviting children, teens and adults to work together towards the creation of murals, banners, and other forms of collective artwork. In witnessing their creations community members see that change is not only possible but enjoyable and enriching as well. •The LGBTQ* Youth Kickback is a youth-led safe space for queer youth and their advocates in the Greater New Haven area. Youth develop and execute weekly workshops open to the public on topics like trans* identity, solidarity, verbal self-defense, consent, poster-making and more. Kickbackers leverage art, education, and community organizing to mold themselves and others into leaders who fight for safety, inclusion, resources, and respect.
Founded in 2007, the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence (CTCN) is a Hartford-based organization dedicated to “bringing people from diverse communities together in dialogue and creative expression to explore the root causes of violence and to learn constructive methods of developing and applying alternative solutions.” The Center was founded in 2007 by Victoria Christagau with direct mentorship and support from Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr., a well known civic rights strategist who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Connecticut Center for Nonviolence received a PFF grant to support its ThinKING youth program, which partners with community-based organizations in New Haven and Hartford to provide young people with intensive training designed to “help participants see themselves as democratic actors with the fundamental skills necessary to help influence change through nonviolent means.” Specifically, the program seeks to: 1) build knowledge through a historical perspective of the American civil rights movement; 2) introduce young people to the Principles of Nonviolence and the six steps of Nonviolent Social Change; 3) help youth understand various types and levels of conflict and methods of deescalating conflict; and 4) understand the root causes of violence. CTCN has operated this youth program since 2009, and has trained well over a hundred youth in the Hartford and New Haven area. A preliminary external evaluation of the program found that youth who participate report “increased self-efficacy in regards to their ability to avoid getting in fights.” In addition, 92% of program participants were more likely to understand violence as more than a physical act, and participants were 233% more likely to state that “inaction can also be a form of violence.” Traditionally, the core training has been facilitated by teams of adults who themselves have been certified in Kingian Nonviolence. CTCN would use support from PFF to develop young people who are certified trainers. These youth would then help facilitate future trainings, which are delivered to youth organizations around the state.
We are very excited about 2015 as we see and feel momentum building.