Share experiences at People’s State of the Union

People's State of the Union logoShare your story and connect with others in the first People’s State of the Union at UIC.

A reverse of the State of the Union given by the president, this event highlights multiple opinions on the condition of the nation, orated through personal experiences.

The event — free and open to the public — offers a space where stories can be shared.

“I feel like there aren’t a lot of spaces in our culture where we get to process the experiences we’re having,” said Megan Carney, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center. “Certainly not with other people, and not with people who are different from us.”

UIC’s forums take place over three days, starting Tuesday at the Latino Cultural Center and continuing today at noon in the Gender and Sexuality Center, 181 Behavioral Sciences Building, and noon Thursday at the African American Cultural Center, 209 Addams Hall.

More than 150 story circles nationwide have signed up to participate in their own dialogues. The shared stories, recorded by scribes, will be sent to an online portal where poets will mash the tales together to create poems. The final poetry will be presented at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City Feb. 1. The event will be available through live streaming.

The People’s State of the Union is the first in a series of re-imagined American traditions and holidays by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.

Don’t be fooled — it’s not a real federal department, but one created by artists and activists who see the potential of social change through arts and culture.

Those who come will answer one of the three scenarios:

• a moment you felt true belonging, or the opposite, in this country or your community

•  an experience that showed you something new or important about the state of our union

• a time you stood together with people in your community.

The forums are hosted in a story circle model, which is “the kind of methodology we value,” said Carney.

In small groups, each person will have an allotted time to share his or her experience. There is no interruption and no judgment.

“It’s really that opportunity to connect the dots of your own narrative and others’ to bring meaning,” she said.

Out of the similarities and differences between stories, Carney said it gives the chance to ask: what can we learn? What kind of awareness can we build from that experience?

Carney will share her own experience as a presenter at the “Freedom Dreams Freedom Now!” conference last summer.

“It was a really powerful highlight of the year,” she said.

Today and Thursday’s forums will be held from noon until 1:30 pm.

The People’s State of the Union at UIC was a collaborative idea between the six on-campus Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change.

The live event is available online


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