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New Orleans Peace by Piece: Healing Through the Arts

New Orleans Peace by Piece: Healing Through the Arts

Published: March 30, 2015
Photo: AFSC / Akema Namore

The McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans was the setting for the 2015 Designing Our Freedom Event, Healing Through the Arts. This year more than 20 young artists from Dillard University and several high schools and middle schools from around the city participated in the event.

Instead of holding AFSC's traditional t-shirt and hoody themed fashion show, New Orleans participants opted to broaden the use of art and let young people express themselves through several modes of creativity.

Commemorating Black history, Peace by Piece presented a showcase of talent demonstrating how young people in New Orleans can and do use art to heal from injustice.

Participants, including students who are active in the Peace by Piece in-school and afterschool programs, used costumes, spoken word, song and performance art to tell stories of the school-to-prison pipeline, violence including police brutality and economic injustice.

Dance performances, a hip hop cypher and a “Tribute to Trayvon” by some young designers were also highlights of February’s event. Six students honored the memory of Trayvon Martin by designing hoodies with messages of injustice as well as hope. Trayvon died tragically February 26, 2012 at the hands of George Zimmerman, who was eventually acquitted in 2013.

As one designer shared her story of injustice, she recited the names of New Orleans youth whose lives have been cut short as a result of violence.

“Can we do something like this once a month?” asked Simonne Walker, a student at Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy and first-time participant in this year’s show. “Meeting other young people from around the city and coming together like one big family to make this show happen feels really good and I want to do more,” she added.

The New Orleans program responded to her excitement by hosting its inaugural bi-monthly Peace by Piece meeting in March.

Bringing together and engaging young people who are energized about social justice and want to make a difference in the city inevitably creates alternatives to violence and promotes healing, peace by piece.