Stitch Buffalo's "Social Justice Stitched Stories" program is an art initiative designed to engage local students and community members with the organization's refugee women artists, staff, and volunteers in a collaborative textile arts project about social justice. In a workshop facilitated by diversity and inclusion professionals, participants review JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) common and shared language, and construct a definition of what social justice means to them.
Based on these conversations, Stitch Buffalo staff and volunteers guide participants in textile art workshops to create “stitched stories.” These stories share community members' great concern, curiosity, and joy around various JEDI issues in society.
The project consisted of four groups and forty final pieces. Folks from different ages, genders, cultures, and racial/ethnic backgrounds participated. Many topics were examined, such as: racism, discrimination, war and conflict, socioeconomic inequity, cultural barriers, community, education, gender, and mental health. There were two groups of students from SUNY Buffalo State College. The pilot group of students came from the Art Education and Art and Design programs. They developed and presented works pertaining to food access, textile waste, immigration, working conditions, and more.
The second group was made up of first-year students in a teacher preparation program in the School of Education’s Transforming Lives Through Teaching Learning Community. Applying the guiding principles from Universal Design for Learning, students created ‘stitched stories’ to illustrate themes in equitable children’s literature as part of a Socially Just Digital Read Aloud project (SJDRA).
The purpose of the SJDRA is threefold:
- expand pre-service teachers' knowledge of diverse children's literature
- examine student identity and voice using equitable teaching and learning frameworks
- engage K-5 students with expressive digital read alouds and activities for remote or in-person learning environments.
Pre-service teachers participated in the Social Justice Stitched Stories workshop to learn how Universal Design for Learning Principles, like tactile-kinesthetic, offer accessible forms of self-expression in the classroom. Throughout the Fall 2021 semester, the Transforming Lives Through Teaching Learning Community partnered with Professional Development School (PDS) Bennett Park Montessori BPS #32. At the final presentation, university students shared the digital read aloud and facilitated a modified version of the textile art project to support reading comprehension for fourth and fifth grade students.
This program is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by Arts Services Inc.