A SONG Project Update

“Songwriting is a way to tell my story without judgment…
As a survivor I feel it is the best way to tell my story…
Music is healing and takes my mind to another place.”
– SONG Project Participant
& Survivor of Commercial Sexual Exploitation

As I wrap up The SONG Project groups for 2015 and look forward to next year, I am holding deep gratitude for the growth, transition and continued “work” of offering safe spaces to tell untold stories in creative and healing ways.
I’m operating in a new city and living full-time within the communities I work with. I’m building connections and seeing this work welcomed, while inviting and empowering women and girls to live courageously, seeing the light in their journeys alongside the struggles.

“The biggest part of this program that I enjoyed was the unity it encouraged. It also gave a peek into the lives of the other girls. The only complaint is that the time goes by so quick because of the fun you are having.” 
– SONG Project Participant from Covenant House PA

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Together We Can Find a Way

The SONG Project recently completed a group at The Women’s Center in Cambridge! The Women’s Center mission is, “To provide women with the resources and support they need to emerge from conditions of domestic violence, sexual abuse, poverty, discrimination, social isolation, and degradation. To challenge and change the attitudes, actions, and institutions that subjugate women.”

One of the gifts of running a group here was the opportunity for women to discuss their journeys about being a woman in this world, with other women they might not normally gather with during their week. I was excited about the unique opportunity to host a group that is open to all of the women from the many diverse communities that utilize the Center!

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Songwriting and Narrative Therapy

Back in July, I had the opportunity to attend a Narrative Therapy Intensive in Toronto thanks to the generosity of The Blakeley Foundation. The summer intensive provided me with a language to integrate into the practices I’ve already been using in The SONG Project that are narrative in essence, and expanded my resources of human and holistic approaches to working with people. It was a gift to be part of a community and make connections with others who embrace these practices. I was energized and have a renewed commitment to working these ideas into my practice through songwriting and music!

Narrative Therapy is a therapeutic method that looks at how stories shape our lives – both the stories about ourselves that we choose to emphasize at any given moment, and the counter-stories/subordinate stories that are going on at the same time. In the words of Angel Yuen, Narrative Therapy “recognizes that identity is shaped by the stories we hear about ourselves,” and “asks us to think carefully about how words are used and how they operate on us.” It also “invites counselors to look at aspects of problematic talk… rather than problematic people.” Most importantly, Narrative Therapy holds and values people as the experts of their own lives!

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Real Men Don't Pay for Women

I’m always humbled and privileged to get to participate in the process of songwriting with young women reflecting on their life stories. I bear witness to their stories of struggle and oppression, while also hearing and hoping to highlight what they give value to, what beliefs they hold and what their hopes and dreams are — many of which are resilient responses to the oppressive events that have happened and sometimes seem to shadow their lives. The goal would be that all of these truths find space to speak within the context of the song or songs we write together!

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Risin' Up at Amirah

The SONG Project recently partnered with Amirah, providing a safe place where women who had been commercially exploited could explore and express their stories through lyrics and melodies, empowering them to transform their lived experience, hopes and fears into songs. While exploring themes around their journeys, both light and dark moments, the women heard their stories reflected back to them and community was strengthened while sharing and collaborating with others around their truth.

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On The Rise

I started my time at On The Rise in November of last year, and over the period of 10 months I’ve learned a lot! I gained a greater understanding of how a music program might operate at a drop in center for woman who are homeless; I learned to be a lot more flexible in my “12-week programming”; I experienced the tensions of numbers and results and being accountable to funders with this population; and, I was honored to get a glimpse into the women’s lives by showing up, offering presence, and being a witness, weekly — with and without music.

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Rosie's Song

The SONG Project just completed its first songwriting group at Rosie’s Place, which was funded through a grant received from The Blakeley Foundation. Rosie’s Place exists to “provide a safe and nurturing environment for poor and homeless women to maintain their dignity, seek opportunity and find security in their lives.” This seemed like a great organization for The SONG Project to partner with, providing a safe space for women to come together and give voice to the many complex experiences that come along with homelessness, through song.

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I Remember You

In partnership with the Homicide Support Services Project of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, The SONG Project programming was offered at The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute to members of the community who had lost a loved one to homicide. It was heartening to watch and guide this group through the process of remembering their loved one through song.

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Never Be The Same

Never Be The Same was written by girls in Roxbury Youthworks GIFT, (Gaining Independence For Tomorrow) program. GIFT serves girls who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation, providing them with life coaches and resources for recovery to help them achieve their life goals. For six weeks I had the honor to work with these girls, helping them put their stories to song. I was inspired by their hard work and how they spoke their truth with great courage and commitment. Never Be The Same is what they had to say when asked what they would want the world to know about their life. We recorded a live performance of the song, which I’ll be posting soon, but for now I leave you with their words!

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