Ways To Tell
Ways To Tell is a community-based Author/Artist led journey seeking to amplify voices directly from communities on Chicago’s South and West Sides, help Authors/Artists expand their work & creativity, and inspire others to use their stories as tools to help unify and transform their neighborhoods. This is a funded opportunity for local creatives supported by DCASE.
Into A Black Beyond
In 2020, ConTextos launched Into a Black Beyond (IABB) Authors Circle Fellowship, a unique writing experience that emerged from raw and untapped emotion—rage fueled by frustration, righteously held indignation, apathy and indifference as the result of too many promises that have long gone unmet. IABB grew out of the languishing and thriving that coexists across the Americas, throughout these United States, and especially here in our Sweet Home Chicago, once a mecca for Black progress, now also a symbol of Black pain. And also it also grew out of hope, a force that has historically moved Black people forward. These emotions and much more so deeply held are contained within Black stories and Black history.
IABB invites an array of Black Chicagoans—homegrown and transplants—from diverse professions, educational backgrounds, identities, familial structures and communities, and across generations to engage in meaningful dialogue and writing meant to capture a range of Black ideas, Black experiences, and Black voices in Chicago.
IABB provides a dedicated space to acknowledge, respect, and evolve beyond traumatic memories and experiences, to build a bridge beyond Black Chicago’s dystopias and paradoxes, and into the next dimensions of our future.
The Authors Circle is a co-created space for exploration and discovery, that uses reading, writing and engaged dialogue as vehicles for transformation. Participants “read as writers” as they draft, revise, illustrate and publish their memoirs. Throughout the process, individuals learn to take and accept critical feedback, improve reading and writing skills, and reflect upon the past to imagine a different future.
The Authors Circle demands accountability while embracing empathy, engages participants to work in teams and independently as they build pro-social behaviors that are the foundation for success in education, the workplace and relationships. The process transforms participants; their final published pieces are used to train teachers, police, and develop empathy, policy and solutions based on real-life experiences of violence and trauma.
Publishing is what allows a writer to become an Author. Final text drafts and illustrated galleys are published as beautiful books (available both physical and digital) which can be read by people near and far, thereby influencing hearts and informing perspectives.
Authors present their final work at Publication Celebrations to an audience of friends and family, as well as leaders and policy-makers in the community, business, law-enforcement and government sectors. These events launch ongoing dialogue to inform solutions based on real-life experiences of violence and trauma, to complicate narratives, break down stigmas, and identify how to heal communities.
Complicating the Narrative: A Podcast Series
ConTextos is excited to announce the launch of Complicating the Narrative, a podcast series produced by Authors who have published through different ConTextos Authors Circles across Chicago. Complicating the Narrative was conceived with the intention of bringing voices that are often overlooked or suppressed to the foreground. Through this podcast, we seek to add context beyond the misconceptions commonly associated with people living in communities impacted by violence.
Every month we bring in a writer or artist to share their work and have a conversation with published Alumni Authors. Salon Speakers discuss their writing process and engage with Authors through thought provoking and meaningful conversation – a learning experience that is beneficial to all involved.
Monthly gatherings with all published Alumni to build a community of Authors over a shared meal and conversation, to share resources, or going on an excursion.
Authors present stories and facilitate workshops at schools, community centers, universities as panelists and experts.
Bedtime Stories is a program provided by ConTextos which aims to create stronger communities by helping the children of incarcerated parents and their families connect through a tech-based storytelling experience.
Authors behind walls have the opportunity to select a children’s book, have their voices recorded reading the story and uploaded to a specially designed app that their families can access and read along.
Through Bedtime Stories, Authors can build, repair and/or strengthen relationships: between themselves and the young people in their lives, with the residual implication and impact of working on relationships with other adults connected to the young people on the outside.
This program and app was created in partnership with Chicago Public Library and Walmart.
Friday, March 13, 2020 was Day One for ConTextos moving into cyberspace. Normally housed at offices in downtown Chicago, the team “gathered” via zoom to figure out what social distancing, what a global pandemic would mean for each of us individually and what they would mean for the work and the people and communities we serve. All we collectively knew on that first day was that we had to create a consistent, open space where folks could gather to commune, write, and process the “new” world we were all navigating. Open Circle was born. Some 200 days later, the Open Circle remains active.
Dear Chicago: Chicago Youth Telling Their Truths is a new program by ConTextos that centers the expertise, stories and self-determination of Chicago’s young people. We will co-create a space of reflection, healing and connection while uplifting the writings, voices, artistry, and perspectives of youth about their own lives as Authors. These 20 youth Authors come from Chicago Public Schools and are between 15-17 years old. During the time of COVID-19, local and national Movements for Black Lives, and the increased violence of Summer 2020 in Chicago, our city’s young people have critical visions and expertise to share.
Be Still and Know