“You are stronger than you think”
Dear Friends of Unity Through Creativity,
On September 28, two gunmen entered the King Estates School Complex, home to three high schools in Oakland, California, and opened fire. Six people were shot; one of those died In mid- November.
Later that day, after school, the children of the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA) gathered to begin work on The Singing Tree of Strength and Happiness, a two-mural project partnering with the Albany (CA) Middle School. The children at EOBA met in a circle, and shared what was on their minds - the shooting and gratitude that they were still alive. Several of the students had siblings at the King Estates Complex and were worried that their family members might have gotten shot. The children talked about struggling to cope with the violence that can be a part of life on any day. Then one girl broke into the worry and concern and said:
“You are stronger than you think.”
The students began work on a Singing Tree Mural, a community arts project that brings people together to create peace and to address the challenges that face our communities.
You are stronger than you think. This is the message we would like to send you today as well, from our hearts and from the hearts of the children of EOBA, as the challenging days of winter are upon us and we approach the holidays with the echo of the violence of the Oakland shooting in our ears.
You are stronger than you think. The Unity Through Creativity Foundation, and its flagship Singing Tree™ Mural Project exist to demonstrate that all of us, individually and together, are stronger than we think. From California to Cumbria to Cyprus, thirteen Singing Trees have been created this year, bringing together diverse people to address common challenges that include reintegrating from Covid, devastating fires, racial prejudice, the crises of forced mass emigration, and war.
It is our privilege to partner with the East Oakland Boxing Association, a 35 year-old non-profit serving a community in the San Francisco Bay area of California surrounded by pollution, industrial buildings and illegal dumping, and with the Albany (CA) Middle School students who go to school in a relatively affluent, culturally diverse, middle-class environment, to create The Singing Tree of Strength and Happiness. By bringing these two groups of students into contact with each other, we expand the listening of everyone to include aspects of humanity they might never meet otherwise.
Both halves of this project create a space for young people—the people who will begin to lead in the next twenty years—to use their voice to express what gives them the strength and cultivate happiness in an unpredictable and violent world.
We are grateful to all of you who have given in support of The Singing Tree of Strength and Happiness as well as the other twelve Singing Trees we have completed during 2022. And we send you joy and happiness as 2022 draws to a close. The coming year holds much promise as well as challenges that are still unknown to us. We can meet them together because we are stronger than we think.
With much love,
Laurie and the team at UTC