When we first started 511, we talked about how it would be a platform for expression. Where we could hear stories from the community, not to assume what was needed, but just be able to listen and move together.
One story I have that explains the mind frame of 511 and Saint City Session is when I told Jimmy to help me to simply announce people on open mic portion of the night. He gave it a shot, but did something unexpected half-way through. He announced that his friend Billy would do some poetry, even though Billy did not sign up to perform. After some back and forth between them, Billy came up, and for the first time shared a poem on the mic at Saint City Session. Understand, Billy has been attending for the past two years, and I could not get him to do that, it had to be done through a friend. A beautiful thing happens when you pass the mic and empower someone else to do the same.
In conversations with our community time and time again this concept of “Pass the Mic” keeps coming up. Empowering others to tell their story, their communities story, is powerful. Giving a voice to the voiceless can change perceptions.
511 has been able to do this through various ways. With Saint City Sessions, Dan gives people the chance to express themselves through various forms of urban art, music and dance. At Laundry Love Santa Ana, the team gives the community a chance to share there stories with volunteers during the downtime. Through Experiencing Art, kids have the chance to do arts and crafts, first at the old building and later through partnership with Think Together in the local public schools. Vi gives artists the chance to have their art seen by a new and diverse audience thereby giving them an expanded platform to express themselves. Even our Sunday Night night gatherings focus on letting people share what is on their hearts rather than having a hard set agenda.
As we go forward with the next year we will be looking for ways to get more people involved with each of these and other initiatives and would love to hear what your thoughts are. Do you pass the mic? Have you been craving a chance to be passed the mic? Let us know!