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Raising Awareness: Herstory Writers Workshop

By Joseline Luna
Contributing Writer

Herstory has taught thousands of silenced Long Islanders to transform their personal stories into intensely moving narratives that connect individual experiences with larger social issues. Working in partnership with colleges, universities, schools, and nonprofit organizations, Herstory gives voice to the most isolated and vulnerable populations on Long Island, including women in prison, homeless shelters, women on disability and welfare, domestic workers, Asian, Hispanic and Caribbean immigrants, pregnant and parenting teens, and young men.

“For justice” is the Herstory Writers Workshop’s motto. Their mission is to offer youth tools that transform their individual voices and experiences into literary works of art leading to personal and societal change.

Herstory Writers Workshop held its 18th Anniversary Gala Luncheon on Sunday, March 23, at Stony Brook University, where there were many social justice issues addressed. There was a story of a young man who was 17-years-old when he was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement, as well as the story of a teenage Muslim girl who was harassed because of her religion, and called a “terrorist,” making high school a living nightmare for her.

At the Gala event, there were a few honorees that have dedicated time and effort into helping change the way our justice system deals with our youths. Angelo Pinto was honored for his skill and compassion for changing outdated policies in New York State. Pinto is the Raise the Age Campaign manager for the Correctional Association of New York.

He is currently seeking to increase New York State’s age of criminal responsibility, to end the practice of housing children in adult jails and prisons, and ensure that children in the justice system receive appropriate rehabilitative services.

Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, another honoree, is the director of the Correctional Association of New York’s Juvenile Justice Project
and manages the project’s principal activities. Prisco spoke about the importance of the collaboration between Herstory and the Correctional Association as a way to get New York to rise the age of legal liability from 16 to 18 years of age. Since social policies have historically been shaped without the voices of those most affected, workshop participants who have gained insight and confidence are encouraged to use their stories to inspire community action and influence social policies. With the assistance of a part-time justice advocate, these stories, and their writers, are paired with specific initiatives in justice, immigration, education and other human rights’ reform movements.

A training program in the Herstory methodology and two teaching manuals are offered to organizations interested in using it for their clients. Current participants include two Unitarian congregations, seven youth-serving organizations, and a seriously disadvantaged school district.

To learn more on Herstory’s initiative, visit the Fish Bowl in Hillwood Commons on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, from 2 to 4 p.m. This teach-in will give a chance to hear from Post classmates, as well as Herstory advocates, and learn the importance of youth justice reform.

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