A few weeks ago, I traveled to Philadelphia to meet with a group of folklorists to discuss how arts organizations can develop programs that better serve our communities. The meeting was a follow-up to Confronting Contention, a 2014 workshop organized by ISC and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Our discussions focused on the relationship between arts and peace building, and how we as organizations can better reflect diversity and internationalism in our programming.
The meeting was hosted by our friends at the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP), an organization that has deep experience incorporating fieldwork into public arts programs. For nearly 30 years, PFP has worked to support vital community-based traditions in Philadelphia. The organization works with people whose families have lived in Philly for many generations, as well as immigrants who have recently arrived.
One of the PFP projects that caught my attention was the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, a group of award-winning singers and dancers from (you guessed it!) Liberia. This group has been performing around Philly for the last two years, sharing a slice of Liberian culture with the wider community through public concerts. But the chorus does not just perform to entertain; their mission is to sing out against domestic violence in the local Liberian community. With PFP, the Chorus has explored creative ways to connect their audiences with resources provided by local social service organizations.
The Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change is an inspiring example of the creative ways in which the arts can help resolve conflicts within our communities. You can sample their music (and hear the women explain their work in their own words) on this podcast or follow them on Facebook.