“It starts with acknowledgement and having truthful conversations.”
In 2015, the Boston Fed concluded that the average net worth of Boston’s Black non-immigrant households was $8. Social scientists and anti-racist activists agree that this startling revelation girds the structural racism that has become embedded into Boston’s civic reputation. During Boston’s recent mayoral race, every candidate talked about the ongoing racial implications of the city’s wealth gap between People of Color and white residents.
Now, in 2022, the question looms: what can be done about it?
From amidst this debate, a collective of social activists and artists at beheard.world has created the Being Heard Initiative to generate powerful dialogues that encourage Black, Brown, and white people of all backgrounds to share, learn, and become inspired.
“It starts with acknowledgement and having truthful conversations,” says Anna Myer, a choreographer and artistic director of beheard.world. “The philosophy of the collective is to use the power of the arts to help people connect to the emotional issues of racial justice and then have deeper dialogues that broaden perspectives and look at solutions.”
The beheard.world artists have toured nationwide and presented their performances throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South, and Midwest. They’ve traveled the Great Migration Trail and brought their work from Boston’s inner city to the nation at large. These artists have been lauded by the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and won numerous jury awards.
“I was so moved by these enormously talented, dedicated artists performing this powerful work as a unique presentation of an artistic and social cause,” said Andrew Straussman, who recently attended a performance. “When it was over, no one wanted to leave.”
Every performance and screening is followed by facilitated discussions with audiences aimed at ensuring the work moves beyond the stage and screen and into the real world.
“Our discussions and follow-up focus groups only reinforce what we experience every time we show a film and give a live performance” says Dakohai Matityahu, a poet and spoken word artist in the company. “If you create a safe space and allow people to be moved, they will become vulnerable and open—even people of different races and ethnicities.”
To impact racism in Boston, beheard.world has created the Being Heard Initiative with eight partner organizations. The initiative will kick off with an exhibit of posters made by middle school students from Dorchester and Cambridge that highlight their hopes and concerns about racism, featured at Roxbury’s Nubian Gallery. The opening will be followed in June through July with seven performances and four film screenings, many in open, public spaces, free to the public. The locations include Copley Square; the basketball courts turned into outdoor theaters at the Franklin Field and Bromley Public Housing Developments; The Dance Complex in Cambridge; and CitySpace near Kenmore Square.
Dates and times are available at beheard.world