Social Justice Center

Elma Lewis Center

In the Social Justice Center

Featured Work

Black and white headshot of Elma Lewis
Portrait of Miss Elma Ina Lewis, ca. 1970-1980, courtesy of Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections

 

Elma Lewis Living Stories Project

Calling artists of all ages to honor a legacy

Together, we are building a living archive to document the ongoing legacy of one of Boston’s most important Black female luminaries, Miss Elma Lewis. We invite you to learn more about this call to artists and other ways you can share your story about “What Miss Lewis Taught Me.”

Learn more about this project


Our work at the ELC is all about what stories can do. We believe stories have the potential to create material change and healing justice in the world around us. We all make decisions, policies, and practices based on stories we know and hear. Stories are a core source of individual and collective power.

Societal liberation can only occur when we seek collective freedom with and for our communities who are systemically marginalized by structural oppression. Storytelling is a crucial part of dismantling structures of oppression and building liberatory practices. Stories are portals to access, education, historical truth, and visibility. Stories are a marker of existence. 

Stories are roots. Stories are hope and necessary dreams. Stories can transform borders into bridges. Stories help us remember that we belong. Stories can seed and sustain our understandings of ways we are connected. 

Stories are oxygen. 

Flowchart linking three words together- storytellers, stories, and listeners

At the Elma Lewis Center, we practice community-centered storytelling and radical listening. We collaborate with communities and people of all ages who are the most impacted by systems of oppression and yet often have the least access to craft and circulate their stories and self-representation.  We work with social justice leaders to hold space for authentic story sharing, community centered archiving and intentional circulation practices so the memory of people’s work--as shared in their own words, images, tone and vibe-- is not dimmed or erased. Our work focuses on  individuals and communities sharing their own stories in their own ways. Sometimes this means written or spoken words. Sometimes this means sculpture, a painting, a play, a zine, a website, a film, a poem. Sometimes this means playing music, singing and dancing.

There are three stars at the center of this constellation of story power: the storytellers, the stories, and the listeners. We collaborate with people to hold spaces where people can meaningfully engage with stories and the people telling them. We intend for these storytelling constellations to be a force for co-creating material change and healing justice.

As part of the Social Justice Center (SJC) at Emerson College, we at the Elma Lewis Center are committed to embodying and advancing social justice for the purpose of individual and collective liberation, working with compassion and enduring solidarity. The ELC is named in honor of Elma Lewis ('43), one of Boston’s most important Black female luminaries in the arts, education, and civil rights work. To learn more about her life and legacy, please see About Elma Lewis and our Elma Lewis Living Stories Project.

The Elma Lewis Center team works to develop and strengthen authentic relationships with community-based organizations and movements that center community voices and organize at the grassroots for transformational healing and change. Rooted in networks of trust, we co-create space for narrative truths to build and sustain paths toward liberation.

What do we need to remember? What do we need to know about what is happening right now?

What are the futures that you imagine? Who do you need to listen?

What do you want your stories to do?

We’re Still Available

Out of an abundance of caution and care for the Community, the staff of the Elma Lewis Center will be working in alternative ways that best support community health and well-being. We will continue to be available by phone, email, and online via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, etc. Please contact us at elmalewiscenter [at] emerson.edu if you’d like to connect. Follow us on Facebook/SocialJusticeCtr for some social justice nourishment.