The Community Word Program reaches back into the long history of the MWPA to offer writing workshops with a social mission. We are a fragmented society, with fewer and fewer opportunities to see outside our bubbles of class, race, and geography. Telling and hearing each other’s stories is one way to see across that gulf. There are particular segments of our society, including the homeless, the working poor, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, recovering addicts, the elderly, and veterans, who we often hear about, but much less often do we hear from them directly.
Community Word workshops empower participants to learn how to tell their stories effectively, building confidence and literacy skills, while also bringing those stories into the public sphere, building more empathy in our community through the airing of such stories. Each workshop is a partnership between MWPA and a local community organization.
Thanks to support from the Robert and Dorothy Goldberg Charitable Foundation, MWPA worked with Greater Portland Health and the Portland Public Library on two pilot Community Word workshops led by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc and an amazing team of local writer volunteers. Participants in the two workshops included immigrant, refugee, and asylee writers and folks who have struggled with homelessness. MWPA designed and printed a chapbook of stories and poems from these workshops, How to Survive: Stories & Poems from the Streets of Portland.
Thanks to support from the Horizon Foundation, writers from MWPA are currently running workshops at Portland Adult Education and at the Maine Correctional Women’s Center. MWPA Associate Director Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is leading the ten-week workshop with the help of several local writers at Portland Adult, and nonfiction writer Mira Ptacin is leading the workshop at the Women’s Center with the help of another local writer.
Stay tuned for more Community Word workshops as we build this program and move it around the state.