Everyone has a story. Many stories. Often our stories emerge from pain or struggle. Storytelling helps us make sense of a swirl of emotions, a cloud of thoughts. Breaking silence about a story we struggle with brings relief. Sometimes we tell stories that directly about our lived experience, other times we extrapolate or make things up all together.

Last week, we hosted Sara Trail, the Director of the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Sara helped us conceptualize how to make art about social issues that matter to us, using fabric collage and text. Listen below to Charlize’s story about what matters to her!

It is important to provide many spaces and opportunities for young people to share their concerns about the world and utilize their coping skills and strategies for taking action. When adults listen to young people, and share their stories, we are saying: YOU MATTER. The way you experience the world matters. What you need matters.

Ash and Feather: A Bird/Girl and Her Father’s Cancer

Podcast Preview, Anchor FM. Also available wherever you stream your podcasts!
Girl and bird drawing

When Listening to the Podcast as a Family… you can:

  • Draw characters, setting, storyboard scenes as you listen
  • Write words you like in a mind map. (see my example below, that I created while listening to the panel discussion.)
  • Think and talk about how you like to listen to the podcast (while exercising, folding laundry, making art, talking with someone about what you hear.)
  • Download our Family Activity Guide, learn more about cancer, do the activities included, such as designing your own animal/human hybrid, and coloring for meditation.
  • Produce your own podcast about a story that matters to you.
  • Visit our Ash and Feather page for more!

The Context for Ash and Feather: Black and LGBTQ+ Family Lives Matter

On Saturday, August 1, Well Beings Studio hosted a panel discussion moderated by Karl O’Brian Williams, Educator, Theater Maker and Actor in the Ash and Feather Podcast, playing Daddy/Eagle.

Karl tells us, “The Ash and Feather project explores how cancer affects everyone, the one who is sick and their family and friends.… The Ash and Feather story centers the black family, and allows space for that family to be comprised of gay males raising a daughter. It is incredibly affirming to a population that so often has to trumpet for equity and inclusion. In the panel, we examine the intersection of social justice, emotional well-being and mental health. The panel centers Blackness and the strength of Black leaders who advocate for families in medical and community spaces. We discuss coping strategies and wellness tips: whether that be music, spoken word, folklore, creative writing, art – here in all of us, to explore and share as we navigate the beauty and messes of life.

The panelists include:

I wrote furiously during the discussion, working to construct relationships across the topics in this mind map. The discussion helped me conceptualize how Well Beings Studio can support well-being from an equity oriented framework.

Sharon’s Mind Map created during the panel discussion, August 2020.

Well Beings Studio’s Actions toward Equity and Inclusion

As a non-profit arts and wellness organization whose aim is to enhance emotional well-being of families impacted by cancer, other traumas and hardships, we must also break silences, address stigmas and disparities. At Well Beings Studio, we are currently at work to:

  • Explore social justice, anti-racist, and cultural consciousness terms and definitions
  • Create equity and inclusion by-laws for our organization
  • Understand and reflect on personal and institutional unconscious biases and/or privileges
  • Build a diverse team of arts administrators and arts educators
  • Raise awareness and take action on issues of equity and inclusion impacting families , particulary in BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, and communities with disabilities.

Thank you to the National Council of Nonprofits for publishing this guide on equity and inclusion, which assists our work.

Thank you to the committed artists, educators, health professionals, and community participants who made our Ash and Feather Summer Program possible. This activity was supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Arts and Disability Center at the University of California Los Angeles.

NADC and CAC Logos

Mental health is important. For support, contact MentalHealth.gov. Visit your local 211 website (in Orange County, CA: www.211oc.org). If you are in crisis, please dial 911.

Sharon Chappell, PhD, is the Executive and Artistic Director of Well Beings Studio. She is a teacher, breast cancer survivor, parent and artist.