Common Threads Conference, January 23, 2016

From across the generations, we came together and claimed ourselves as part of the long line of people who want to be part of social change. We heard slam poetry by Jasmin Roberts and Arjuna Greist. We met in small multi-age conversations, attended workshops, and spoke about hopes for the future and our work for social change.

The nine workshops included:

Tools for Change: Envisioning Consent Culture — We discussed sexual violence in our world, exploring consent within a activist framework, and envisioning a violence-free future.

Changing Everyday Disrespect Toward Women — We exchanged stories of things that have happened to us, our friends, our children and in the world. By listening closely and envisioning a world where this is different, we formed ideas of what a Fourth Wave of Feminism could look that includes all genders.

Bridges: Finding What Connects Us–This was an opportunity for hearing LGBTQ voices, and changing gender stereotypes.

Addressing Oppression – Dialogue about Racism and White Privilege; — We focused on the many ways that white privilege and racism affect our relationships with each other.

Living in an Unjust Society: Facing structural inequality — This participatory discussion had a positive focus on women, our actions within community and “another world is possible.” After looking together at hard realities, participants learned and offered examples of important sources of information.

Comments about the conference:

“I found the multi-generational aspect extremely valuable. To share ideas and stories and issues amongst all ages was truly special.”

“I was struck by the truth-telling of Jasmin’s poetry especially regarding racism….I like the topic of feminism and supporting women.”

“I liked the music, thought-provoking questions, poetry and the Roots Groups for grounding. I wanted it longer than one day.”

Regular Peace Net Programs

Constellations: We are in the midst of a nine-month program for teenage girls ages 14 to 18 to give support and inspiration. Inquire for more information.

Dialogue Series: Let us know if you’d like to host or be part of a Peace Net dialogue for the Listening Project.


We will develop a booklet of anecdotes, quotes, and insights learned from our LISTENING PROJECT. Here are the kinds of quotes we’ll be including:

* From “What About Feminism?” New Moon Magazine for Girls February 2016

Here are just a few reasons why we all need feminism:

Because it’s more dangerous to be a woman than it is to be a soldier in a modern conflict.

Because girls and women are told to be careful not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.

Because we want our bodies to be simply left alone, and not a constant target of discussion, disrespect and objectification. — Article by Serenity, age 14

— From Feminism is for Everybody, p. 1 by bell hooks

“Simply put feminism is a movement to end sexism…. It is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism.”

Examples of Past Programs in our Speaker Series

Date: February 28th, Saturday 2015
Location: McCusker’s Market, Shelburne Falls
Time: 1:30-3:30

Focus: Singing Songs of Freedom — The Spirituals: Healing Racism Through Music

Led by Gloria De,Layne Matlock: performer, educator, dancer, poet, and playwright. Gloria De,Layne Matlock grew up singing gospel and spirituals with The Robinson Singers, directed by her mother—songs that had been passed down from her great great grandmother. In the early ‘90s she began HARMONY, a singing group in the same tradition. She has presented her workshops using music to heal racism at libraries, churches, public and private schools, universities, and other groups in the U.S. and Europe.

Women and men, young and old are welcome.


Strong Oak and the Visioning Bear Inter-Tribal Drum Circle celebrated women and girl’s voices and the power of music to spark social change. Peace Net met at the Brick House in Turners Falls.

Strong Oak had recently returned from meeting in council with the Thirteen Grandmothers and spoke about what she learned. Peace Net also honored the Pocumtuck people who originally lived on this land and recognized that a few blocks away from where we met is the falls where women and children were attacked during salmon fishing.

The Peskeompscut massacre took place on May 19, 1676, during King Philip’s War. We heard from two women who have been part of recognizing and healing this history.


Maria Luisa Arroyo led the circle in creating a group poem, “I Believe,” as part of a Peace Net event called “Naming Our Power,” held at Valley Women’s Martial Arts: Institute for Healing and Violence Prevention Strategies in Easthampton.

How to Take Part
Voices Rising Series

Monthly gatherings six months of the year help this active network develop strong connections between girls and women. The monthly gatherings feature a presenter who is a woman of color and who uses the arts to promote social justice. Gatherings also feature the voices of young women ages 12–17 through spoken word, songwriting, or martial arts combined with poetry.

The monthly series began October 2013 with a presentation by Ingrid Askew, director of Crossing the Waters. Ingrid lived for ten years in post apartheid South Africa where she still resides part-time working with local artists and activists creating cultural exchange programs that focus on social justice, and cultural sharing. Askew directed the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage which was featured in the award winning PBS documentary This Far by Faith: African Americans Spiritual Journeys. Ingrid is on the Peace Net Board.

María Luisa Arroyo, a 2014 presenter pictured above, is the author of Gathering Words: Recogiendo Palabras. She is an award-winning multilingual Puerto Rican poet and educator. Her poems have been published in many journals, including in the anthology, Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. María Luisa has performed widely, including in Chicago, DC, and Puerto Rico

The “Voices Rising Series” runs from October to December and from February through April. We travel to a different location each time so that people in the widespread geography can find a gathering near them.

Each year one of the six gatherings is a song swap of songs by and about women and girls. Another is a four-hour event called “Girls Voices Rising” for girls to speak on issues of gender violence and ask anonymous questions and receive mentoring by women.

Participants describe the monthly gatherings:

“At each Peace Net meeting, I feel the momentum growing. Connections keep increasing, and people are eager to meet again and bring their friends.”

“We were hungry for an experience like this.”

“Nothing moves me so deeply as people speaking their truths like happened here.”

“So many wonderful heart opening experiences in a short period of time. Fantastic energy in the room that keep building during our time together.”

“My ten year old daughter arrived very tired due to a big day at school, but she loved her time — the performances of songs and poems by the young women, Janet Aalf’s movement pieces and was very interested in what Ingrid Askew had to say which led to a really good discussion.”

“All of you created an atmosphere where everyone felt welcome.”