Happy New Year, Partners and Friends!
I hope 2024 has ushered in renewed energy and uplifted spirits for you and your loved ones. Here at The Facing Project, we’re kicking off the new year with several opportunities and ways to create a more understanding and empathetic world through stories that inspire action. However, if you’re a regular watcher of the news like I am, the world can often feel bleak and empathy—well, empathy can feel nonexistent.
The truth is, we must reach beyond the headline of the day and believe that individual stories and conversations can and do bring people together across differences, and our work over the past 10 years—and the connections and tangible byproducts, such as community reads and stories influencing ordinances and trainings (and, of course, hearts and minds)— keeps us believing in the power of storytelling for the common good. So, as long as we continue to see these kinds of changes toward the positive, we’ll continue to do what we do and hope you’ll join us.
As we begin 2024, here is what we have in store:
Story performances and long-form interviews all centered on the intersection of storytelling, the arts, and empathy.
In partnership with Indiana Public Radio (our local NPR affiliate), we have expanded our monthly radio show/podcast to weekly by dipping into our archives of over 2,000 stories and giving those new life through voice actors, themed episodes, and discussions with artists, authors, and peace activists who are using empathy in their work. You can learn more about the new season in this article we published back in November, but here’s a sneak peek of January’s episodes:
- January 6th, “Unity”: A War on Terror veteran intends to bomb a local mosque, but instead meets its occupants and begins a healing process through unlikely friendships.
- January 13th, “Seeing Yourself Reflected in the World”: An undocumented “dreamer” in Los Angeles works up the courage to apply for college, while a college-bound wheelchair user in Ohio wants others to see that she’s more than her chair.
- January 20th, “Giving Thanks”: Kelsey Timmerman and I discuss lessons on gratitude learned from past stories we’ve told, and stories we’ve helped to tell.
- January 27th, “The Abortion Talks”: I sit down with filmmakers Josh Sabey and Sarah Perkins, directors of The Abortion Talks (2022), to explore civil discourse across major ideological divides. We’re joined by Reverend Anne Fowler and attorney Fran Hogan, two women profiled in the film on opposite sides of the abortion debate, who met secretly for six years to find common ground and ways to work together after the 1994 abortion clinic shootings in Boston that killed two and injured five.
Episodes of The Facing Project radio show are available on select NPR affiliate stations or anywhere podcasts are available.
Communities using our Toolkit and model to tell their own stories and make connections through their own narratives.
Since our founding in 2012, we’ve worked with over 100 communities on Facing Projects. This has included organic projects that have transpired through our own connections, or individuals reaching out to us about leading their own projects. In addition, we’ve had the good fortune of developing partnerships with like-minded organizations who have assisted in project recruitment, such as the Listen First Coalition, Transform Mid-Atlantic, and the Washington Campus Coalition for the Public Good, among others. Currently, we have five projects in production that will be released over the next calendar year:
- Baltimore, Maryland: Healthcare / health disparities in partnership with John Hopkins University and Transform Mid-Atlantic;
- Indiana (statewide): Social justice in sports (phase II) in partnership with journalist Dr. Adam Kuban;
- Indianapolis, Indiana / Nicosia, Cyprus: Joint project on refugee/resettlement stories in partnership with the University of Indianapolis, the Center for Social Innovation, Frederick University, Patchwork Indy, and the Burmese American Community Institute, among others;
- Princess Anne, Maryland: Town and gown divide (mostly white community with a historically Black college) in partnership with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Transform Mid-Atlantic;
- Spokane, Washington: Sustainability / environment in partnership with Eastern Washington University and the Washington Campus Coalition for the Public Good.
Several more projects are in the works but not yet ready to be publicly announced. If your community or organization could benefit from a Facing Project, we’d love to work with you. We do ask that prospective projects complete a short abstract form to help us understand your needs, and we’ll be in touch shortly after submission.
Monetary support and sponsorships help us build empathy.
We started the new year with great news from long-standing supporter, philanthropist, and artist Marianne Glick who has committed an additional three-year $120,000 gift to advance the continued growth and expansion of our work, building off of her $150,000 gift in 2021. We would not be where we are today without Marianne and her commitment to the arts and belief in the power of storytelling.
While I wish I could say this work could be done with the snap of a finger and little to no resources, the truth is that the work of The Facing Project takes time, talent, and a ton of energy that would not be possible without sustained funding; and while we’ve had growth over the past few years, we have miles to go and more ways we’d like to expand our work. If you or your organization/corporation would like to explore joining The Muse Collective (our monthly sustaining donors) or providing a sponsorship to support the radio show, community-based projects, or spreading books and stories into other communities who need them the most, we’d love to be a partner with you in 2024.
Tell your own story through Facing You.
Lastly, we want to hear your stories through Facing You! Once a month, we’ll share a question in our newsletter and on social media, asking you to post a response on your own social media (be sure to tag us). In return, you’ll be entered to win your choice of Facing Project books or apparel (open to U.S. entries only). Selections will happen on the last Friday of each month!
If you’ve stuck with me this far, congratulations and thank you! And here’s to 2024! I hope you continue to have the courage to share your own stories, and the empathy to listen to others. We need it now more than ever!
In peace, love, and light –
J.R. Jamison, MAEd
Co-founder & President, The Facing Project