Reflecting on a year of #blackstoriesmatter and what lies ahead

#blackstoriesmatter performance 2017

One year ago today, on Martin Luther King Day, Eva and I launched TMI Project’s #blackstoriesmatter initiative at the Hudson Valley Writers Resist in Woodstock, NY.

In true TMI Project fashion, I’ll be transparent; we didn’t know we were launching anything! We knew that we had a platform through TMI Project and that in the wake of Trayvon (and Eric, and Dante and Sandra, and…) that we wanted to use that platform to amplify the voices and stories of Black people in America, and specifically in our own community.

So over the course of 6 months, Eva, Sari and I worked with a group of committed writers to craft the #blackstoriesmatter inaugural show. Rev. James Child at the Pointe of Praise Church in Kingston, NY agreed to host us and the show debuted on March 25, 2017. We hoped for an audience of 200, maybe 300 if we were lucky, and 600 of you showed up to watch the Brooklyn Technical High School all girls step team perform and eleven writers read deeply personal stories about the richness and complexities of their lives.

That evening was the true start of #blackstoriesmatter as a TMI Project initiative. In the year since, we’ve developed a few projects that carry and extend the original production: we’re working with the Kingston Public High School to to develop a teen version of #blackstoriesmatter. And in the Fall of 2017, we collaborated with Historic Huguenot Street to create and perform Reclaiming Our Time, written, in part, during an overnight stay in enslaved people’s quarters in New Paltz. Now, one year later, I’m excited to announce that I’m officially coming onboard to work with TMI Project as the #blackstoriesmatter Program Director!

“I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.” Dr. Martin Luther King

What is #blackstoriesmatter and why are we doing it?

#blackstoriesmatter is TMI Project’s way of making an impact in addressing incidents of hate, bigotry and racial injustice in our local community while also participating as an organization in the national outcry of injustice. In alignment with TMI Project’s mission to empower people and bring about change through true storytelling, #blackstoriesmatter seeks to raise awareness around issues of inequality and injustice through true storytelling and amplification of the voices of those who have inspiring stories to share about black people surviving–and thriving–in the Hudson Valley and throughout the United States. We aim to provide audiences the opportunity to listen, expand their awareness, possibly identify internalized racism or uncover unintentionally racists points of view. This heightened awareness will enable audience members to replace biased belief systems with informed knowledge, deepened compassion and an active commitment to work for justice for all.

What’s next for #blackstoriesmatter?

This year we’re focused on creating true stories that will deepen the listener’s ability to feel empathy and compassion; programming that will ignite the humanity of the audience (our readers, after all, are already human) around issues of race in America and how that manifests in our own community. In addition to performing the show with the original cast at both Bard and the Kingston African American Library, we are expanding the programming to include facilitated community discussions so that we can work through and face the problems caused by systemic racism and segregation together.

We wish there were no need for an initiative like #blackstoriesmatter, but events like Charlotteville clearly demonstrate the need to combat ignorance with truth. These stories and so many more that are reflections of Black life in America, past and present, must be shared and amplified. Especially in our own community, where segregation (and the insidious redlining that enables it) is as alive here as it is in everywhere in America.

So on this Martin Luther King Day, one year to the day that Eva and I stood on stage in Woodstock and announced our intention to create #blackstoriesmatter, we’re pledging our renewed commitment to working hard in 2018 to create and support the development and amplification of Black stories through our platform.

  • Tameka Ramsey, TMI Project

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