Herstory Gives Voice To The Voiceless


On Fridays at the “Yes We Can” Community Center in Westbury, a small group of honest, kind and inspiring writers meet to write personal and thought provoking narratives that they hope will change hearts, minds and the community. The writers meet at Herstory workshops, which are open to anyone looking to share their story with others as a way to be heard and change hearts and policies. Novelist and essayist, Erika Duncan and her committed group of writing facilitators lead Herstory writing workshops.

“We all know our stories, but it is not until we shape them in writing that we begin to know our journeys,” said Duncan.

A member reads her story during the workshop
A member reads her story during the workshop

According to Herstory, the focus of the workshops are to give writers the opportunity to tell their personal stories and give a “voice to the voiceless.” Herstory invites people of all writing abilities and backgrounds to join them and tell their own stories.

“Here we have people from all walks of life, those who have written all their lives and those who never written before,” Duncan said. “Some come only for a couple of months, to tell a particular story that needs to be told; others come year after year, engaging in book-length projects. The quality of the writing is breathtaking, as is the sense of community across the racial, ethnic, educational and economic differences that too often keep us apart. It is a safe and welcoming place.”

Duncan designed the workshops herself and the memoirs that come out of them are powerful. There are writers from all walks of life that come to offer support to others and to share their own stories. Battered women, immigrants, college professors, children of the incarcerated, college students, advocacy leaders, rich, poor and middle-class have met at Herstory writers workshops to tell their story and dare someone to care about them and their community.

Erika Duncan, Herstory founder, is committed to creating a safe space for writers

At a recent Herstory workshop at the “Yes We Can” Community Center, Barbara, a facilitator for Herstory, said the workshops “give people the opportunity to see who they are.” She said that listening to others “changes my heart.”

Writers have their own reasons for going to the workshops. Shanequa Levin of Huntington Station is writing an inspirational narrative about her life and its challenges. “I come because I was ashamed of my past,” she said. Levin explained that Herstory made her feel empowered and helped her go from victim to advocate. Helen Dorado Alessi, program associate for Herstory, is writing her personal narrative hoping to help others, she said.

“Writing is a form of therapy,” Dorado said. “It develops my voice; develops the voice of my characters. Erika has unique capability of creating a safe space. You are not stigmatized or judged.”

Herstory invites writers to attend their workshop at the “Yes We Can” Community Center, 141 Garden St. in Westbury. The workshops are held every Friday with the exception of the last Friday of the month from 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m. Writers can come once, twice or every week to tell their stories. Spanish speakers are welcome to write in their own language and translation can be provided. For more information about Herstory or to get information about other workshops, visit www.herstorywriters.org or call 631-676-7395.

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