Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On the Eve of Give InterPlay Day

Dear friends,

I have been a social worker for over 20 years and an advocate all my life.  I am feeling so lucky to be a part of the InterPlay Atlanta , an organization that builds community, serves under-served populations and has a lot of fun in the process!

On the eve of Give InterPlay Day, A national event to fund InterPlay projects around the nation,  I am reflecting about the current projects in the works through InterPlay Atlanta and I wanted to share with you some of these exciting programs.

One of my amazing Social Work and InterPlay Mentors +Sheila K Collins  & I at the Center for Civil and Human Rights

Here is an excerpt our director, Jennifer Denning wrote on the Give InterPlay Day page:

In 2015 we have many exciting opportunities to bring InterPlay to underserved communities in Georgia.
  • We continue our work with the women at Lee Arrendale State Prison in partnership with Reforming Arts.
  • In April, we begin InterPlay classes at the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center, part of the detention center's programming that is designed to support and empower women during their time of incarceration.
  • We will bring InterPlay to NAMI of Georgia in conjunction with a street performance they will bring to downtown Decatur to raise awareness about mental illness.
  • We have the opportunity to be a part of the programming for underserved communities in Clarkston, Georgia, in partnership with the Clarkston Community Center (CCC), especially serving seniors and youth from refugee communities in Clarkston.

Lee Arrendale State Prison - photo by Christine G.
I've had the extraordinary opportunity to co-lead, with +Jennifer Denning, a 15 week group at Lee Arrendale state prison and here is a quote from Wende Ballew, Executive Director of Reforming Arts, Inc. that really gives voice to what we do:

"The InterPlay class at Lee Arrendale State Prison is a wonderful addition to Reforming Arts' Higher Education at LASP program. From community building to providing a space for fun and creative self-expression InterPlay is invaluable to our organization and loved by the women at Lee Arrendale State Prison." 

And from another community partner:

"The Office of the Public Defender is ecstatic to partner with InterPlay to bring a unique component of movement and song to women of the Atlanta City Detention Center.  We are working with an underserved population to enhance their sense of self and empower, educate and develop their skills so that they can re-enter the community successfully.  With the help of InterPlay, we hope our women will be able to use movement, music and personal storytelling to positively express their emotions and stories."

Here is a brief blog I wrote about one of my experiences Going To Prison.

Another exciting project is in the process of bringing InterPlay to the Clarkston Community Center (CCC), through +Ruth Schowalter who plans on serving seniors and youth from refugee communities in Clarkston.

Atlanta InterPlay Leaders +Ruth Schowalter , +Jennifer Denning  & +Christine Gautreaux 
What amazes me is these are just a few of the projects we have going.  The leaders of Atlanta InterPlay are committed and called to serve under-served communities in addition to our regular play-groups which offer a range of delightful opportunities to play and build community simultaneously.  

I hope you'll join me and  InterPlay Atlanta tomorrow on Give InterPlay Day to help support and continue this incredible work:


Wrapping you around with infinite love and gratitude,

Christine Gautreaux, LMSW
Certified InterPlay Leader

TX Wildflowers -  3/30/2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

WE ARE ONE BODY: Warrior Mother Sheila K. Collins unites us all at her book performance with Soulprint Players

CELEBRATING THE WARRIOR MOTHER. On March 13, 2015, Sheila K. Collins performed her book, Warrior Mother, in Atlanta, Georgia, with the support of InterPlay Atlanta's Soulprint Players. (photo by Callahan Pope McDonough)
by Ruth Schowalter, certified InterPlay leader

"We are one body," proclaims Sheila K. Collins as she delivers her life's story written in the book, Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, and Rituals that Heal, at the Mask Center in the Little Five Points Community Center, Atlanta, Georgia.
INTRODUCING THE STORY. With the audience on her right and the Soulprint Players on her left, Sheila stands center stage at the Mask Center and begins her story after having the audience watch the video about her book on their mobile phones. Here is the video link. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

In sharing her story of losing two adult children, one to AIDS and the other to breast cancer, Sheila emphasizes the importance of the community body to help an individual to sing and tell stories that are too large to bear alone. "The weight of one person's story becomes lighter," she says. 

And Sheila knows. Her 31-year-old son, Kenneth died of AIDS, and seven years later, her daughter, Corinne, died of breast cancer. In 2013, Warrior Mother, her journey through this unimaginable loss to healing and joy, was published.  Merging InterPlay forms with a "book reading," Sheila, now in her 70s, has shared her story of grief and loss with many communities around the world. 

The evening at the Mask Center was spent with Sheila moving between reading from the pages of her book and inviting InterPlay Atlanta Soulprint Players to expand the themes through performance. Below are some of the performance highlights:
THE WARRIOR MOTHER DANCE. Members of the Soulprint Players learn the "Warrior Mother Dance" from Sheila. Punctuated with voiced "huhs," the stomping performers energized the room--the community body--with their repetitive mother warrior dance back and forth around the stage. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
WHAT GOOD CAN COME FROM THIS? Asking several Soulprint Players to join her in singing the phrase, "What good can come from this?," Sheila engaged three other performers to move. Audience members witnessed the transformation of an anguished plea to find meaning out of loss and death (What good can come of this?) to a triumphant proclamation--GOOD CAN COME OF THIS. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
THE THINGS PEOPLE DON'T TELL YOU. As Sheila moves to the part of her book about being in the presence of her son as he is dying, she explains that there are things people don't tell you, things you have to find out for yourself. She and her family had been told to keep her son comfortable in his last hours, but that was it. She had to discover how to be with her son as he passed away. In this InterPlay form, Sheila invited her husband, Rich Citrin, to do a side-by-side story with her. Taking turns until their stories were completed, one moved while they other told a story about things that people don't tell you. (photos by Ruth Schowalter)
TOGETHER WE ARE ONE BODY. Sheila and Rich came together at the end of their story telling and movement. It was clear to the audience that these two had spent years in this dance around death, loss, healing and joy.  Yet, at the same time, there was a freshness to this moment, to this story told in community. All of us felt nurtured, moved, perhaps healed. Ahhhh, we are one body, aren't we! (photo by Callahan Pope McDonough)
Other book performances of "Warrior Mother" with Sheila K. Collins in Atlanta:

Warrior Mother Sheila Collins
Dancing social worker, Sheila Collins does a performance of her book at the Alta Senior Living Center and then participates in a program on managing grief at Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting.

Performing Warrior Mother
Sheila brings her book performance to the Darnell Multipurpose Senior Center (May 2014)
GOOD CAN COME FROM THIS! Thank you Sheila Collins! (photo by Callahan Pope McDonough)