As Arlington and the nation grapple with our history of systemic racism and structural inequity, the Robbins Library and the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are creating a new collection to give voice to the experiences of people of color in Arlington. Through a community-sourced collection of personal stories and other documents, this archive will serve as a place for underrepresented voices to be heard today and preserved for the future.
Jillian Harvey, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion says, “Too often community members of color are spoken for or about; the purpose of this project is to restore the power of sharing one’s own narrative. This collection will be available via the library’s website for easy access for community members today and for years to come. We hope that this collection can serve as an #OwnVoices survey of life in Arlington including the joys, frustrations, and hardships of living as a Black, Indiginous, Person of Color (BIPOC) in our community.”
Ahead of the launch of the collection, Harvey sought opportunities to help residents create stories, memoir, and other works for inclusion in the project. Programming in support of the Elevating Arlington’s Voices of Color collection begins on February 10 at 5:30 p.m. when published author and writing instructor Lynette Benton leads the first of a three-part writing workshop via Zoom, “Telling Your Story of Race in Arlington.” The aim of this free workshop is to help residents write about their observations and experiences in a safe, supportive setting. Benton will offer writing prompts and feedback, encouragement, and guidance as participants craft their stories. Anyone interested in this workshop can register at https://forms.gle/yt5Ci3eiZoZiHHYm7. Space is limited.
Harvey and Robbins Library are also teaming up with Cecily Miller, Curator, Public Art and Community Engagement for the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture (ACAC) to bring artists and writers to town for a series of artist talks and workshops. The community will hear from local artists of color, providing a glimpse into the ways in which artists create stories through various forms of art. BIPOC community members will have opportunities to engage with the artists of color in smaller, intimate virtual spaces to allow for deeper discussion around the intersections of racial identity and storytelling. Miller says “It’s not always easy to share your story. We hope that hearing from these artists – whose work is grounded in daily experience, and celebrates the lives of family, friends and community – will inspire people to contribute to the archive. We encourage everyone in Arlington to attend the talks, and hope that anyone considering the archive will take a workshop for encouragement and coaching.”
The collaboration with ACAC kicks off Saturday, February 27 at 2:00 p.m. when noted poet Charles Coe presents an Artists Talk open to the community, followed by a smaller workshop on March 6 for people of color to talk, brainstorm and write together in a safe space. Miller invited Coe to kick off the series in part because of All Sins Forgiven – Poems for my Parents, an insightful collection which reflects with warmth, humor, and compassion on the complexity of family relationships. Register for the February 27 Artist Talk at https://artisttalkcharlescoe.eventbrite.com
Anyone who lives or lived in Arlington, works, or attends school in Town is welcome to contribute to this collection. Stories, poems, essays, photographs, and other works that bring to light the experiences of the Arlingtonians of color will be suitable for submission to the collection.