Philadelphia Story Circle for Women and Girls*

What if the State of the Union wasn’t spoken by one, but a poem created by many?

Most years, the President delivers a State of the Union Address highlighting the past year and priorities for the coming year. In inauguration years there is no official speech, instead a Transition Team of experts is assembled to advise on directions and strategies. But a handful of experts can’t represent all of us. After this campaign cycle, We the People are likely to have a lot to say about the state of our union, and our sense of belonging in this country. That is why, this month, all over the country organizations and individuals are hosting story circles. The stories will be collected and shared in a U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) Poetic Address to the Nation on March 11th.


ArtWell is so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate on the Philadelphia Story Circle for Women and Girls* at the Children’s Community School of West Philadelphia on Saturday, February 4th, 2017. In an empowering afternoon, nearly 50 women and girls shared brave and honest stories, supporting and connecting with one another through their intersectional experiences of womanhood. In addition to story circles, the West Philadelphia event included poetic and musical performances, resource and action tables, and interactive art making. Many thanks to performers Yolanda Wisher, Marcy Francis, Jan Jeffries and Kadidja Cisse (ArtWell student)!

In a morning segment on Fox 29, with reporter Lauren Johnson, Kadidja shared this powerful poem alongside Julia Terry and Sarah Chavez of ArtWell:

Click to view Philadelphia Story Circle for Women and Girls* Facebook Photo Album

The event was organized by local Philadelphia artists and facilitators, with partners that included ArtWell, Children’s Community School and the Blue Door Group, as part of the USDAC People’s State of the Union Address.

This collective poem was composed during the Philadelphia Story Circle for Women and Girls* as a reflection on the stories and experiences shared. Lines were written by women and girls ages 3-75 and then arranged by poets Kadidja Cisse and Mariam Williams.

My story is a homemade gift.

My story is one of trial and error and perseverance.

My story is real.

My story is mine.

I love you.

My story is my flesh and blood.

Our stories will help us breath.

My story is brining my young self into the circle.

The stories made me happy and the stories made me feel good.

I was happy with all the stories because some of them was funny.

I love story circles.

My second story was about having so-called friends bully me.

Our stories are empowering to bring about change.

Our stories are full of moments in time, past and present.

Our stories express the truth of the world and are the key to creating change.

Our stories are the answer to everything hurting the world.

Our story is activated change and hopefulness.

Our story is the story going to rewrite history.

Our stories can change the world.

Our stories tell the story that will guide generations to come.

Our story is going to make history.

My story is going to make a difference in someone’s life.

My story is emerging.

Our story is our ancestors’ prayers being answered.

Our stories are medicine.

Our stories will bring us into another world.

My story is changing all the time.

My story is real life.

Our stories are similar.

Our stories are ongoing.

Our story is strong and unified.

Our stories are powerful and need to be heard.

Our stories are important and need to be given space.

Our stories deserve to be heard.

Our stories are going to be heard.

Our stories are powerful, vulnerable, vibrant, and vital.

Our stories are all related to how we feel/not feel like we belong

in a space and how that makes us feel.

Our stories are full of effort, hope, change, pain, loss,

growth, and striving to be seen, heard, accepted.

We are striving for life.

My story is for the women who can’t tell theirs.

A story of grief for the nation.

My story was about being or feeling like an outsider.

My story is being a person of privilege,

being a companion to women of diverse backgrounds,

being a nurturer and person of hope

who often gets stymied by sensitivity to hardship for all.

Our stories weave together to make the American tapestry.

Our story is a gymp all woven together to make a simple masterpiece

Our stories are connected.

Our stories are so connected, different but the same.

Our story is about refusal to be separate.

Our story is about our similarities.

Our stories are unifying.

My story is unique and not uncommon.

Our stories live through their mutuality and contrast.

Our stories are unity across imagined divides.

Our stories are their stories.

My story is our story. Our story is my story.

Our story is resource.

Our stories are inspiring.

Our story is inspiring, open, empathetic.

My story is strong, resilient, truthful, brave.

My story is a story of healing.

Our story is brave and hopeful.

Our stories are emotional and impactful.

Our stories are affirmative and affirming.

It was fantastic.

Our stories are tender and their edges are ragged. I want to help knit the edges.

Our stories are bad ass.

Our stories are tender.

Our story is a rich collective weaving of wise, fiercely tender womanness.

Our stories are powerful.

Our stories are important and authentic.

Our story is brave.

Our story is a brave, sweet thing.

Our story is brave and flowing strong.

Our stories are sacred.

Our stories always matter.

Our stories are worth listening to and learning from

Our stories must be heard

must be heard

must be heard.

Our stories are necessary.

My story is just beginning.

Follow along on social media with #PSOTU2017 #WeMustBeHeard