"Our Voices, Our Stories" A New Partnership for Healing

Banner inviting community members to the first "Our Voices, Our Stories" event on September 11 at Roxbury Presbyterian Church.

Banner inviting community members to the first "Our Voices, Our Stories" event on September 11 at Roxbury Presbyterian Church.

At the invitation of Roxbury Presbyterian Church’s (RPC’s) Social Impact Center (SIC) and Senior Pastor Rev. Liz Walker, Still Harbor is participating in a new pilot program, the Cory Johnson Trauma Education Project, aimed at empowering community members in Roxbury to tell their stories and support one another in the process of healing from trauma.

In a community where violence is too often the norm, trauma—the wound or shock produced by violence—can be lasting and pervasive, affecting not only the individual victim but the community as a whole. In the wake of a violent incident, relatives, neighbors, friends, and witnesses become secondary victims. There is a ripple effect of trauma through which its symptoms pass on from one victim to the next, and before too long, it seems entire groups and communities can be living on edge, hyper-vigilant, and fearful.
— Rev. Liz Walker, Senior Pastor at Roxbury Presbyterian Church

The core of the pilot program is a series of community events entitled “Our Voices, Our Stories” that will offer safe space for people to gather to share their reflections and stories of trauma, loss, healing, and transformation. Telling one’s story is essential in the trauma healing process. The events will use a participatory community storytelling design (think community group meets open mic) to help people share their stories and have their voices be heard. Still Harbor is helping to design and facilitate the evenings to maximize a sense of safe space, listening, and support for storytelling and healing.

The neighborhood surrounding Roxbury Presbyterian Church is a vibrant community. However, it continues to suffer trauma from violent crime. As Rev. Liz Walker says, “In a community where violence is too often the norm, trauma—the wound or shock produced by violence—can be lasting and pervasive, affecting not only the individual victim but the community as a whole. In the wake of a violent incident, relatives, neighbors, friends, and witnesses become secondary victims. There is a ripple effect of trauma through which its symptoms pass on from one victim to the next, and before too long, it seems entire groups and communities can be living on edge, hyper-vigilant, and fearful.”

The initiative began with a meeting of 24 stakeholders working on community outreach, organizing, and trauma in the city. The group came together in July 2014 to learn about the initiative and to reflect upon the impact that trauma has had in their lives. Engaging stakeholders in this way will not only allow the program to mobilize existing resources and support for the events but will also help to connect providers to the community as they too grapple with trauma’s impact.

The Historic Roxbury Presbyterian Church (RPC) is located on the corner of Warren and Woodbine Streets in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

The Historic Roxbury Presbyterian Church (RPC) is located on the corner of Warren and Woodbine Streets in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

In addition to the monthly events, Still Harbor has helped to design a unique and essential component of the program—the opportunity for participants who may need additional support to meet monthly one-on-one with a community companion. A group of 10 community members signed up at the stakeholder meeting to serve as companions. They will soon finish a series of 12 training sessions on trauma, storytelling, and spiritual accompaniment led by Still Harbor. The program will also offer referral resources for individual mental health care.

The first “Our Voices, Our Stories” event was held on September 11. We look forward to sharing more about the project soon.

 

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